Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - SCHOOL FOOD ENVIRON. (School Food Environments)

The research program consists of three research projects on the subject of school food environments. The first part focuses on carbonated beverage bans in schools and asks how these bans in children’s schools affect household-level consumption of soda. The second part examines healthier school lunches in schools and examines the effect of these on student test scores and fitness outcomes. Finally, the third part of the project evaluates open campus policies allowing high school students to leave campus during the school day, and asks how these affect student test scores, as well as behavioral outcomes, such drug and alcohol abuse, cutting classes, and bullying or fighting.

Since being awarded the grant, most of the focus has been on expanding the first and third parts of the project, polishing the drafts, and presenting the research in several conferences and seminars in order to get feedback on the papers. The project on carbonated beverage bans has a substantially greater sample of school districts, and this facilitated the evaluation of differential effects of carbonated beverage bans in schools on household soda consumption. The paper for this project has been conditionally accepted at the Journal of Public Economics. The project on open/closed campus policies now includes an analysis of behavioral outcomes and how these were affected by the policies. This paper has been revised and resubmitted to the Economics of Education Review and is currently under review. Current working paper versions of these studies can be viewed at: for carbonated beverage bans and for open campus policies.

Some progress has been made with the second project on the subject of healthier school lunches and their effect on student test scores and fitness outcomes. One of the main obstacles in the analysis for this project is that a program for breakfast in the classroom was enacted in close proximity to the introduction of healthier school lunches. Data on the gradual implementation of breakfast in the classroom within the school district being studied was obtained, but the current analysis revealed that the results are extremely sensitive to the specification used, most likely due to low levels of variation in the implementation of both programs. Further analysis is required in order to reach conclusive results.

An additional research project has been undertaken which relates to tracking of children’s weight and health status within school. This project inquires about potential detrimental consequences among children – such eating disorders, bullying, or low self-esteem - when tracking their weight within school.

The research conducted so far and to be undertaken improves our understanding of school food environment policies and their affects and effectiveness beyond the their intended consequence. In particular, the first project shows that household consumption of soda responds to restrictions at child household members’ schools and that this increase lasts for more than a year following ban introduction. The third project shows that open campus policies can be used as an educational measure beyond a school’s need to respond to greater lunch options for high school students – these policies can provide incentives for students to perform better in school.

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