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School Wellness Policies and Foods and Beverages Available in Schools

      Background

      Since 2006–2007, education agencies (e.g., school districts) participating in U.S. federal meal programs are required to have wellness policies. To date, this is the only federal policy that addresses foods and beverages sold outside of school meals (in competitive venues).

      Purpose

      To examine the extent to which federally required components of school wellness policies are associated with availability of foods and beverages in competitive venues.

      Methods

      Questionnaire data were collected in 2007–2008 through 2010–2011 school years from 892 middle and 1019 high schools in nationally representative samples. School administrators reported the extent to which schools had required wellness policy components (goals, nutrition guidelines, implementation plan/person responsible, stakeholder involvement) and healthier and less-healthy foods and beverages available in competitive venues. Analyses were conducted in 2012.

      Results

      About one third of students (31.8%) were in schools with all four wellness policy components. Predominantly white schools had higher wellness policy scores than other schools. After controlling for school characteristics, higher wellness policy scores were associated with higher availability of low-fat and whole-grain foods and lower availability of regular-fat/sugared foods in middle and high schools. In middle schools, higher scores also were associated with lower availability of 2%/whole milk. High schools with higher scores also had lower sugar-sweetened beverage availability and higher availability of 1%/nonfat milk, fruits/vegetables, and salad bars.

      Conclusions

      Because they are associated with lower availability of less-healthy and higher availability of healthier foods and beverages in competitive venues, federally required components of school wellness policies should be encouraged in all schools.
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