Food, Health & Choices Curriculum and Wellness Policy Intervention | Teachers College Columbia University

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Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy

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Food, Health & Choices Curriculum and Wellness Policy Intervention

As the rates of childhood obesity and related health consequences increase, researchers have been interested in how nutrition education curricula and wellness policy implementation change students’ eating and physical activity behaviors. Yet, there has been little research to compare curriculum and wellness policy individually versus when both are implemented together. This was the study design for the Food, Health & Choices trial.

The Food Health & Choices intervention uses social cognitive theory and self-determination theory as its foundation. It has two components:

  1. Wellness Policy: includes guidelines for healthy foods to be provided in classrooms for snacks and celebrations as well as “Dance Breaks," an activity where students dance to videos during the school day
  2. Classroom Curriculum: students receive 23 lessons that teach nutrition concepts through inquiry-based science explorations. Lessons encourage students to choose more fruits and vegetables and choose less sweetened beverages, fast foods, and processed packaged snacks such as candy and chips. Students are also encouraged to choose more physical activity and choose less television and video games.

Twenty schools participated in the outcome evaluation conducted during the 2012-13 school year. Schools were placed in one of four groups: a) Wellness Policy only; b) Classroom Curriculum only, c) Both Wellness Policy and Classroom Curriculum, and d) delayed control (received standard science curriculum the intervention year, but received the “Both” condition the year after the intervention). Pre- and post- intervention, we assessed students’ heights, weights, percent body fat, eating and physical activity-related behaviors, and theory-based mediators of behavior change.

Food, Health & Choices will be published as the 4th book of the LiFE Curriculum Series. Funded by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agriculture Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Grant.

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