Highlights of School Health Policy and Practices Study: Nutrition Services and the School Nutrition Environment
The CDC conducted a School Health Policy and Practices Study (SHPPS) in 2012, the results of which were released in August 2013. The study involved a nationally representative sample of school districts from each state, with data collection beginning in May 2010. One section of the study was aimed at gaining insight into the school nutrition environment and nutrition services on the state and district level.
The results of this study are important for food service personnel to refer to when evaluating their own cafeterias. Understanding how a particular cafeteria measures up to the national average can help in identifying areas in which the food environment and nutrition practices need improvement. It also helps in identifying areas which are excelling. The results of this study can provide valuable data for use in grant and funding applications, as well as other support services. Reporting and communicating successes to school administration and the school district is equally important and can provide other schools with an exemplar model of school food service successes.
Some of the highlights of the district level results are:
- 80.8% of districts have a policy that all schools will offer breakfast to all students.
- 26.7% allow for breakfast consumption in locations other than the cafeteria. For example: breakfast in the classroom.
- 20.2% of districts required a minimum amount of time for students to eat breakfast
- 19.7% of schools required that schools offer whole grain foods each day for breakfast
- 96.6% of districts have a policy that schools offer lunch to all students
- 34.3% require that schools offer two or more different fruits
- 33.8% require that schools offer at least 2 entrees
- 31.9% require that schools offer at least 2 different non-fried vegetables
- 27.7% require that schools offer whole grain foods
- 14.8% require that schools offer a self serve salad bar
- 10.6% require that schools offer a vegetarian entrée
- In 92.1% of districts the nutrition service program had the responsibility for planning menus for meals at all schools and of those schools– 39.3% routinely used a computer to analyze the nutritional content of the school menus
- 92.7% of district nutritional service programs were also in charge of deciding which foods to order
- 63.7% purchased foods from local or regional growers and producers and 51.7% had a contract that addressed preference for locally or regionally grown foods
- 93.6% had a contract that addressed food safety
- 92.1% had a contract that addressed Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)
- 84.0% had a contract that addressed cooking methods for precooked items
- 73.5% had a contract that addressed nutrition standards for a la carte foods
- 73.5% of district nutritional service programs were in charge of cooking all foods and were therefore able to use techniques to make foods more healthy
- 78.3% of school districts require that school have written plans for implementation of a risk-basked approach to food safety
These findings reveal that many schools are striving to meet USDA requirements for school meal programs. This number has increased since the study was last conducted in 2006. The 2010 study shows that now more than half of schools have policies or practices that provide students with a variety of healthy choices in the cafeteria. However, as the numbers reflect, there is room for improvement! Supporting school nutrition services in making healthy changes is the key to success. Staff trainings and professional development, collaboration with stakeholders, and improvement of wellness policies are a few of the recommendations for increasing the effectiveness and healthfulness of school nutrition programs.