Master's Project Title:

Practices, Policies, and the School Food Environment: An Analysis of TREC-IDEA Study Data

MCH Student:

Jean Wentink

Date of Defense:

January 2008


Background: Obesity is an epidemic that affects children of all ages throughout the United States. It can cause an enormous array of childhood and adult chronic diseases, social isolation and behavioral problems, and is a large financial burden for the individual, state, and nation. Interventions must be implemented in all environments, including the school environment.

Methods:  For each school participating in the Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer – Identifying Determinants of Eating and Activity (TREC-IDEA) study (n=116), a feedback report was created from survey and observational data. In addition, these data were analyzed to assess current practices and policies regarding the school food environment of sample of Minnesota metropolitan middle and high schools.

Results: Generally, these schools provide a wide array of food and beverage items that are competing with more nutritious federally regulated school meals. These competitive foods are highly available in vending machines, school stores, fundraisers, and offered as rewards to students. Policies that address the nutrient quality of these foods and beverages are not equally prevalent. In addition, health advisory councils, if in existence, are not addressing nutrition and physical education as part of overall student wellness.

Conclusion: Districts and schools should be held accountable for the quality of foods and beverages available in schools. Policies that regulate practices regarding nutrition should be implemented and enforced. School-level advisory councils should be created or enhanced, and include nutrition as a priority discussion topic.