WASHINGTON—Nearly all parents of K-12 students in Kansas say it is important to serve nutritious food in schools, and 3 in 4 parents favor the healthy school meal standards in effect nationwide, according to a poll released today by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project. Respondents expressed broad support for the National School Lunch Program’s enhanced nutritional guidelines, now in their third year, as well as for newer federal rules, implemented in 2014, governing food and drinks sold in school vending machines, at snack bars, and on a la carte menus.
Polling was conducted among a representative sample of registered voters in Kansas that included an oversampling of parents with children in public schools. Among the findings: 96 percent of parents think serving nutritious foods in schools is important to “ensure that children are prepared to learn and do their best.”
Respondents also were asked whether certain additional changes to school meals would improve them or not. Seventy-six percent of parents in Kansas say that meals would be substantially better if schools offered a greater variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
“Parents clearly see these changes as important to kids’ health and academic success,” said Jessica Donze Black, director of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaboration of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Their strong support matters, because it takes time and persistence for children to adjust to healthier meals, whether at school or around the family dinner table.”
A study released last month by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity shows that students are eating more nutritious school foods and discarding less of their lunches under the healthier standards. Specifically, kids ate 13 percent more of their entrees and nearly 20 percent more of their vegetables in 2014 compared with 2012, before national standards were updated. While kids on average continued to finish about three-quarters of each fruit serving, the share of students selecting fruit with lunch rose 12 percent.
Kansas districts participating in national school meal programs served more than 70 million breakfasts and lunches during the 2013-14 school year, resulting in over $130 million in federal reimbursements. Lunches served in 99 percent of districts statewide met the healthier requirements at the start of the 2014-15 school year.
The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project provides nonpartisan analysis and evidence-based recommendations on policies that affect the safety and healthfulness of school foods. The project is a collaboration between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Learn more at healthyschoolfoodsnow.org.
The statewide poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates. Data were collected via landline and cellular telephone surveys March 3 to 5, 2015 among 500 registered voters and 212 parents or guardians of children in K-12 public/charter schools. The margin of error on the sample of 500 is ±4.4% and the margin of error on the sample of 212 is ±6.7%.