SOM Researcher Pushes Healthy School Lunches

January 6, 2016    |  

Policymakers should uphold regulations that enhance the nutritional standards for America’s school lunch program, according to a new editorial in JAMA Pediatrics co-authored by Erin R. Hager, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Hager’s editorial accompanied a new study in JAMA Pediatrics finding that the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), a 2010 regulation that updated nutritional standards for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, helps children make better food choices at school.

"The Johnson et al. study supports other cross-sectional and survey-based studies that demonstrate significant improvements in the nutritional composition of school meals and healthier food consumption among students following the implementation of the meal pattern changes stemming from the HHFKA," write Hager and co-author Lindsey Turner, PhD, of Boise State University.

"The HHFKA created significant improvements in school nutrition, but that progress is now at risk of repeal. ... We encourage policymakers to consider the hard evidence rather than anecdotal reports when evaluating the impact of policy changes. On the fifth anniversary of this landmark legislation, it is worth celebrating the successes of the HHFKA, rather than abandoning the recent progress made in keeping our nation's children healthy," they conclude.

The editorial and the associated research are generating media coverage, including the Time magazine story "Healthier School Lunch Rules Are Working, Study Finds." Additional coverage has appeared on CNN and in MedscapeEurekAlert! and Medical News Today.