BETTER AFTER-SCHOOL SNACK CHOICES BOOST NUTRITION FOR LOW-INCOME KIDS, UC DAVIS RESEARCH CONFIRMS
Study of a Sacramento-area program finds kids will eat more fruits and less fat
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- School lunches and vending machines aren't the only places to look for ways to improve students' nutrition. Modest changes in the kinds of snacks offered at after-school programs can also have a significant positive impact on children's diets, UC Davis researchers report in the September 2006 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
The study suggests that a healthy snack menu in an after-school program can help low-income children -- those at highest risk of obesity -- consume more fruit and less saturated fat, said lead author Diana Cassady, an assistant professor of public health sciences at UC Davis.
"Even though school food programs have very limited budgets, this study suggests that with leadership and a little bit of political will, food service for kids really can be improved," Cassady said.
The UC Davis researchers focused on an after-school program called Students Today Achieving Results for Tomorrow, which serves some 8,000 low-income children from 44 public elementary schools in Sacramento, Elk Grove and Rio Linda.
In 2002, START changed its snack vendor and its menu in an effort to offer more fruits and vegetables, boost nutrition and save money. Kids started receiving more fresh fruit, tastier crackers, more juices and fewer dairy products. For instance, Friday's snack of a brownie and milk was replaced with animal crackers and grape juice; Wednesday's snack of a peach cup and graham crackers was replaced with peanut butter crackers and an apple.
Cassady and her colleagues compared the nutritional content of the new menu of 17 snacks with that of the old menu of 15 snacks. They found that the new menu boosted the children's daily servings of fruit by 83 percent, reduced
Contact: Claudia Morain
University of California, Davis - Health System