Louisiana Poll Finds Support for Healthier School Food and Fundraisers

Turner_Florida_20150121Tyrone Turner: Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Oct. 12 marks the start of National School Lunch Week, and to celebrate, the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project released a statewide poll of Louisiana residents or parents about school nutrition standards and related fundraising policies. The research reveals strong support for current national nutrition guidelines and clear preferences for school fundraisers that promote health. About 3 in 4 Pelican State residents with children in public schools favor the school meal and snack nutrition standards, and the majority of parents support fundraising that doesn’t involve the sale of food during the school day.

Pollster Memo | Full results

Overwhelming Support for National Nutrition Standards

Polling was conducted among a representative sample of registered voters in Louisiana that included an oversampling of parents with children in public schools.

We asked:

Do you favor or oppose requiring public schools to meet these national nutrition standards for school meals?

Registered voters 78%
Parents of K-12 public school students 75%

Among all those surveyed in the state and those with children in public schools, more than 9 in 10 say they “strongly” believe that public schools should include a serving of fruits and vegetables with every meal. The poll also shows strong support for nutrition policies that extend beyond cafeteria meals. Seventy-four percent of Louisiana residents favor national nutrition standards for food sold in school stores, vending machines, and a la carte in cafeterias. When it comes to fundraisers on campus during the school day, the majority of parents prefer options that involve students in physical activities. Fundraisers that rely on sales of ready-to-eat foods such as pizza and candy were ranked the lowest.

When it comes to fundraisers on campus during the school day, the majority of parents prefer options that involve students in physical activities. Fundraisers that rely on sales of ready-to-eat foods such as pizza and candy were ranked the lowest.

Parents Prefer Nonfood Fundraisers

We asked:

Assuming all of the following types were equally profitable, which two or three would you most prefer be used in public school fundraising efforts?

Parents Favor
Activity-based fundraisers, such as carwashes and walk-a-thons 51%
Auctions of items donated by families or businesses, such as event tickets and gift baskets 39%
Sales of food meant to be taken home, such as cookie dough and popcorn 29%
Sales of nonfood items, such as wrapping paper and plants 26%
Bake sales held on school grounds during the day 20%
Soliciting donations without selling anything 18%
Sales of ready-to-eat food such as pizza, doughnuts, and candy held on school grounds during the school day 12%

The survey also found that 96 percent of those surveyed say serving nutritious foods in schools is “important” to “ensure that children are prepared to learn and do their best.” Seventy-nine percent of Louisiana residents think it is “very important” that children have enough time to eat their meals, but respondents with children in public school are divided over whether lunch periods allow adequate time: 51 percent say they do, 47 percent say they do not.

The National School Lunch Program began in 1946, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has regularly updated nutrition standards for school meals over the past 60 years. Since the 2012-13 school year, breakfasts and lunches have included more lean protein, low-fat dairy products, and fruits and vegetables than ever, while avoiding excess fat, salt, and calories. As of December 2014, 3 in 4 Louisiana schools are certified as meeting these healthier standards.

Delivering healthy and delicious meals on a tight budget isn’t easy, but school nutrition professionals work hard to do exactly that every day. With such strong support from voters and parents alike for healthy food in schools—and most of the state’s districts meeting the updated nutrition standards—Louisiana schools are poised to continue helping students eat healthier.

More about the poll

The Louisiana statewide poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates for The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of its work with Voices for Healthy Kids, a collaboration of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Data were collected via landline and cellular telephone surveys Sept. 29-Oct. 3, 2015, from 600 registered voters, including 201 parents or guardians of children in K-12 public or charter schools. The margin of error on the sample of 600 is plus or minus 4 percentage points, and the margin of error on the sample of 200 is plus or minus 6.8 points.

The poll is the latest in a series of state surveys conducted for the project. Each has revealed overwhelming support for the nutrition standards that are in place for school lunches and breakfasts as well as the snack food and drinks sold separately. Similarly, strong support for these policies was found among K-12 parents nationwide.

School Lunches Are Getting Healthier — The Facts

School Lunches Are Getting Healthier—The Facts