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New Study: Students Need Help Navigating Food Environments

A new study in the Journal of School Health, by Dr. Marissa Burgermaster and the Tisch Food Center team, provides further evidence that nutrition education needs to happen hand-in-hand with efforts to improve the food environments students encounter on a daily basis.

The Tisch Food Center team wanted to know how a classroom’s context - how “bought in” teachers and students are when involved in a nutrition education program – impacts how the program is taught and received. Ultimately, researchers found that no matter the context, students in the program had universally become more aware that their food environments made it really challenging to eat healthfully.

Students told researchers they struggled to eat well because of the food they encounter on a daily basis. When asked what makes it difficult, replies included “Because I have a lot of fast food area in my surroundings,’’ ‘‘When I pass a restaurant and I want to go inside and eat,’’ and ‘‘Stores with many unhealthy snacks.’’

Why is this study important?

There are many impactful school wellness programs, aligning nutrition education programs, nutritious school meals, school gardens, and other wellness activities to promote healthy eating for kids. Yet children eat outside of school too – at home, in bodegas, in restaurants. Unhealthy food retail and fast food outlets are ubiquitous, particularly low-income communities of color. Goals to eat well made at school can unravel when students are faced with these options. Add to that the billions spent on marketing junk food to kids, and it’s clear that students need all the help they can get to navigate every day food choices. Everyone with a stake in student health should be at the table to coordinate programs and policies that motivate kids to eat well, give them the skills to do so, and create healthy environments where they live, learn, and play.

This research was part of the Food, Health and Choices study, funded by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Grant no. 2010-85215-20661 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Human Nutrition and Obesity.

Published Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018

New Study: Students Need Help Navigating Food Environments

The Tisch Food Center team wanted to know how a classroom’s context - how “bought in” teachers and students are when involved in a nutrition education program – impacts how the program is taught and received. Ultimately, researchers found that no matter the context, students in the program had universally become more aware that their food environments made it really challenging to eat healthfully.

Students told researchers they struggled to eat well because of the food they encounter on a daily basis. When asked what makes it difficult, replies included “Because I have a lot of fast food area in my surroundings,’’ ‘‘When I pass a restaurant and I want to go inside and eat,’’ and ‘‘Stores with many unhealthy snacks.’’

Why is this study important?

There are many impactful school wellness programs, aligning nutrition education programs, nutritious school meals, school gardens, and other wellness activities to promote healthy eating for kids. Yet children eat outside of school too – at home, in bodegas, in restaurants. Unhealthy food retail and fast food outlets are ubiquitous, particularly low-income communities of color. Goals to eat well made at school can unravel when students are faced with these options. Add to that the billions spent on marketing junk food to kids, and it’s clear that students need all the help they can get to navigate every day food choices. Everyone with a stake in student health should be at the table to coordinate programs and policies that motivate kids to eat well, give them the skills to do so, and create healthy environments where they live, learn, and play.

This research was part of the Food, Health and Choices study, funded by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Grant no. 2010-85215-20661 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Human Nutrition and Obesity.

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