STUDY FINDS SCHOOL MEALS HEALTHIER THAN HOMEMADE SACK LUNCHES — A study in August’s Childhood Obesity shows packed lunches are significantly less nutritious than purchased school meals. Researchers examined the contents of the lunches that 2nd graders from seven schools in a large suburban Texas district brought from home on three separate days and compared them with lunches their peers purchased from the school cafeterias. The bagged lunches were less likely to contain fruit, vegetables, and dairy and more likely to have snacks high in sugar and/or fat and non-100 percent fruit juice drinks. Source: Childhood Obesity (August 2012)

STUDY FINDS THAT TEENS WHO STAY UP LATE MAY HAVE MORE ACADEMIC PROBLEMS — Teens who stay up late to study rather than getting sleep may experience academic problems in those same subjects, according to a recent study published in Child Development. Researchers at UCLA surveyed 535 high school students for two weeks and found students who gave up sleep in favor of study reported difficulty mastering concepts and performing well on tests, quizzes, and homework assignments. Cumulative sleep loss over time may produce long-term academic problems for students, the study reported. The findings suggest that students’ academic success may depend in part on maintaining a consistent schedule, maximizing school hours, and spending less time on peripheral activities. Sources: ScienceDaily (8/21/2012), Child Development (8/12/12)

HEALTHIER SCHOOL MEALS PROGRAMS DO NOT NEGATIVELY IMPACT CAFETERIA FINANCES — Implementation of nutrition programs featuring healthier food choices does not lead to changes in revenues and expenses according to a study of 42 Texas middle schools where at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Researchers studied data from the schools that participated in a study of the HEALTHY program, which, in part, asked schools to meet five specific nutrition goals. Schools that implemented the program were more likely to reach nutritional goals than the control schools, but there were no significant changes in expenses and revenue between the two groups. However, while it was not determined to be significant, schools that offered healthier meals reported an average profit of $3.5 million, while those that did not reported an average profit of $2.4 million. Source: Journal of School Health (September 2012), (7/23/12)

SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN SCHOOL INCREASES AMONG TEENS — An annual study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported high school students have greater access to drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes while at school than ever before. The national survey asked 1,003 students questions about their schools, families, social networking practices, drug and alcohol use, and access to tobacco. More than 85 percent of teenagers surveyed said they know classmates who drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use drugs during the school day. Slightly more than 50 percent know a place on school property or nearby where students engage in these activities, and approximately 45 percent of teenagers said they know someone at school who sells drugs. Sources: National Survey of American Attitude on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens, Education Week (8/27/2012)

In a similar study, researchers at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine surveyed 1,950 students in the 9th and 10th grades in high schools with predominately Latino students. Investigators found that gaining acceptance from peers was an important risk factor that led to students taking up smoking. Sources: National Institutes of Health Medline Plus (9/6/12), Journal of Adolescent Health (9/6/12)

STRONGER SCHOOL FOOD LAWS LEAD TO LOWER CHANCE OF WEIGHT GAIN OVER TIME — A study in Pediatrics reports students are less likely to gain weight over time in states with strong laws governing what is sold on school campuses outside of the school breakfast and lunch programs. By studying weight changes of 6,300 students across 40 states from 2004-2007, researchers found that students in the states with stronger competitive food laws gained an average of .25 fewer BMI units than peers in states with weak or no such laws in place. Source: Pediatrics (September 2012), New York Times (8/13/12)

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 STATE RANKINGS OF CHILD WELL-BEING RELEASED — The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2012 Kids Count Data Book, which provides detailed data and statistics on child well-being throughout the country. States are ranked by overall child well-being as well as in four categories: Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community.

US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AWARDS NEW ROUND OF PEP GRANTS — The U.S. Department of Education awarded 56 grants worth a total of $27 million to school districts in 26 states through the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP). The PEP program, started in 2001, is focused on expansion and improvement of physical and nutrition education programs in K-12 schools, including helping schools meet state physical education standards. It is managed by the Office of Safe and Healthy Students, which also recently released an Evaluation Brief that highlights the past successes of the program.

USDA EXAMINES SCHOOL FOOD SERVICE PROCUREMENT PRACTICES — USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recently released the 2009-2010 School Food Purchase Study, which provides estimates of the quantity, value, and unit price of food acquisitions by school district among those that participate in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. For the first time, the survey asked about local food purchases and found that 20 percent of school districts surveyed purchased local products, though definitions of what is considered local varied widely.

TEACHER SURVEY ON STUDENT BREAKFAST REVEALS SOLUTIONS FOR PARTICIPATION BARRIERS — Teachers surveyed about student breakfast participation cite a number of reasons that only 9.7 million students are eating breakfast at school, while 20 million eat free or reduced price lunches. Increasing awareness of breakfast programs, reducing paperwork, and offering universal free breakfast were cited as possible solutions in the Hunger in Our Schools: Share Our Strength’s Teachers Report, produced by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign. The report is also summarized in the infographic that can be viewed here.