Survey: 76% of Kansas public school parents support healthy school nutrition standards

April 23, 2015

WICHITA, KAN. – More than seven out of 10 voters and public school parents in Kansas support requiring public schools to meet the national nutrition standards for school meals, according to a new survey conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The majority of voters and public school parents also think schools should be required to serve nutritious food options such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains with every school meal.

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The telephone survey of 500 registered voters, conducted March 3-5, 2015, included an oversampling of public/charter school parents and collected opinions about school nutrition standards. Some key findings:

Nearly all voters (96%) and public school parents (96%) believe serving nutritious foods in schools is important in helping ensure that children are prepared to learn and do their best in school.

More than nine in 10 voters (95%) and public school parents (94%) believe it is important for schools to provide nutrition education as part of the school curriculum.

Two-thirds of voters (67%) and public school parents (66%) in the state support requiring public schools to meet the national nutrition standards for school snacks (food sold in school stores, food and drink vending machines, and a la carte items in the cafeteria).

The survey results show broad public backing for the strides schools have made to improve food and drink choices. Families in Kansas have seen healthier meals served to students since at least 2012, when updates to national nutrition standards took effect. Stronger guidelines for snacks sold in school vending machines and other on-campus venues were put in place this school year.

“Children spend up to 2,000 hours each year at school, which has an enormous influence on their behaviors related to nutrition and wellness,” said Steve Coen, Kansas Health Foundation president and CEO. “School nutrition standards are a key component in helping ensure children are prepared to learn and do their best, and it’s encouraging to see parents supporting healthy school meals.”

USDA nutrition standards require school lunches to provide one-third of the Recommended Daily Allowances of protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium and calories. Regulations also require schools to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that no more than 30 percent of an individual’s calories come from fat, and less than 10 percent from saturated fat, according to the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE).

“Parental support is critical to helping develop healthy eating habits in kids and these results clearly show parents support the school nutrition standards,” said Cheryl Johnson, MS, RD, LD, KSDE director of Child Nutrition and Wellness. “I am proud of the work being done by Kansas school nutrition professionals to provide quality, healthy options to students. These professionals have mastered the art of serving meals that are both nutritious and appealing to students.”

KSDE and several other partners including the Alliance for a Healthier Generation; American Heart Association; Harvesters; Kansas Action for Children; Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice; Kansas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; Kansas Health Foundation; Kansas PTA; the Kansas chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and Midwest Dairy Council are raising awareness about the public’s support of important nutrition standards in schools.

Additional comments from child nutrition and policy experts:

“In the 2014-2015 academic year, 50 percent of Kansas public school students are eligible for free or reduced-prices lunches and breakfasts at school. In many cases, these students may not have consistent access to sufficient nutritious foods outside the school day. It is critical the meals they receive at school provide adequate nutrition to allow them to comprehend and retain the lessons they are taught in class.”
Rebekah Gaston
Childhood Hunger Initiative director
Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice

“As long time supporters of the current nutrition standards, Kansas PTA is pleased to see so many parents understand and support the importance of these standards. We encourage families to go have lunch with their children to see for themselves and to contact their schools with any question about what is being served. We also encourage parents to mirror these positive eating habits in the home as this will help teach their children that healthy eating is an important way of life.”
Tammy Bartels
Kansas Parent Teacher Association

“Members of the Kansas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (KAHPERD) interact with Kansas students on a daily basis, educating and assisting these children as they strive to be physically literate, which includes making good food choices and understanding the positive impact of quality nutrition. Healthy students learn better. KAHPERD is in full support of continued implementation of the National School Nutrition Standards.”
Wendy Scholten

“Parents want their children to be successful in school and in life, and a key ingredient to that success is to have access to healthy meals and snacks at school. Parents are important partners to our schools so I’m pleased to see they support efforts to ensure the health of Kansas’ students.”
Gretchen Patch
Healthy Schools program manager
Alliance for a Healthier Generation

“Children who don’t get enough to eat are more likely to get sick and less likely to do well academically. Child nutrition programs, including school breakfast and school lunch, are key to getting healthy meals to kids who need them. It’s great to see that parents and educators support proven, effective school nutrition policies.”
Shannon Cotsoradis
President and CEO
Kansas Action for Children

“Research shows that improved nutrition, including daily breakfast, and increased physical activity can lead to improved academic performance. We believe in the importance of creating a healthy environment for school children and are happy to see that great progress has been made with the school nutrition standards. It’s important that progress continues in this positive direction.”
Marley Sugar, RD, LD
Health and Wellness program manager
Midwest Dairy Council

“The fact that an overwhelming majority of Kansas parents support healthy school lunches is not surprising. Many parents want their kids to make good choices and eat healthy foods; however, parents can’t do this alone. The survey tells us that parents want schools to be partners with them in educating their children — not just about math and science — but about nutrition and healthy behaviors as well.”
Kevin Walker
Regional vice president of advocacy
American Heart Association

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