A new study suggests that new federal school lunch regulations that require more servings of fruits and vegetables, more whole-grain content, less salt and fat, and limits on calories could yield a legion of children from low-income families who escape a trend of childhood obesity.
The study published online last week in JAMA Pediatrics looked at states that had cracked down on the content of school meals even before the new federal standards took effect this school year. A smaller share of students who received free or reduced-price lunches that had to meet the higher nutritional standards—about 12 percentage points less—were overweight than among students who did not eat school lunches.
In states where state rules about school meals didn’t go beyond existing federal requirements, students who received free or reduced-price lunches were about twice as likely to be obese as students who didn’t eat school lunch—26 percent versus 14 percent. The study looks at 2006-07 school year data for 4,870 8th graders in 40 states.
A version of this article appeared in the April 17, 2013 edition of Education Week as Child Nutrition