While overall prevalence of obesity improved in Massachusetts public schools between 2009 and 2014, prevalence remained unchanged for children living in poor, rural, and smaller communities. This project will identify which programs and activities have been effective in reducing childhood obesity among the successful schools, and use the information to guide future interventions for those schools that were not. Specific aims of this study are to: 1) investigate the roles of school policies, healthy eating and physical education programs, and community social and built environments in the decline in obesity prevalence among Massachusetts public school students; 2) identify necessary and sufficient conditions for significantly reducing obesity prevalence in public schools; and 3) recommend approaches to accelerate the decline and reduce socioeconomic and geographic disparities in obesity prevalence in public schools. The research team will use a mixed methods approach to identify both necessary and sufficient school and community conditions for reducing obesity prevalence in public schools using a retro- and prospective cohort design. Researchers will analyze over 2.1 million body mass index (BMI) records from 338 school districts for public school students grades 1, 4, 7, and 10 between 2009 and 2017 and correlate them with school-level administrative data on healthy eating and physical education programs and community social and built environmental data from the same period. Analytic reports and district-specific recommendations will be shared with the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health and Elementary and Secondary Education and all Massachusetts public schools.
Identifying Successful Childhood Obesity Interventions in Massachusetts Schools and Using Findings to Improve Programs at Schools Left Behind
Schools play a vital role in promoting children’s health and well-being. In the United States, schools contribute significantly to children’s overall diet quality and can provide up to half of their daily calories, especially among children from low-income families. Providing healthy school meals for all is a policy opportunity to … More
Strengthening the Impact of USDA’s Child Nutrition Summer Feeding Programs During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic
To address food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, utilization of the USDA child nutrition summer feeding programs has drastically increased. Given the unprecedented use of the summer feeding programs, this research brief will (1) explain the meal pattern requirements and select operational differences between the summer feeding programs and the … More
Special Issue on School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study-I: Findings Related to Improving Diet Quality, Weight, and Disparities in U.S. Children
School meals are important contributors to the healthy diets of our nation’s children, especially those in food insecure households, according to new papers published in a special issue of the journal Nutrients. The papers address urgent policy challenges related to food security, childhood obesity, sugar consumption, and racial and ethnic … More