State Laws Are Associated with School Lunch Duration and Promotion Practices
journal contributionposted on 2018-06-25, 00:00 authored by Lindsey Turner, Julien Leider, Elizabeth Piekarz-Porter, Marlene B. Schwartz, Caitlin Merlo, Nancy Brener, Jamie F. Chriqui
Background The changes in school meal programs stemming from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 have expanded interest in strategies that increase student participation in school lunch and reduce plate waste. However, it remains unclear what factors are associated with schools’ use of such strategies. Objective This study examines whether state laws are associated with two types of school meal-related practices: (a) using promotional strategies (ie, taste tests, using posters or announcements) and (b) duration of lunch periods. Design This cross-sectional study utilized the nationally representative 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study, combined with corresponding state laws gathered by the National Wellness Policy Study. School data were available from 414 public schools in 43 states. Main outcome measures Outcome measures included 16 strategies to promote school meals and the amount of time students had to eat lunch after being seated. Statistical analyses performed Multivariate logistic regression and Poisson regression were used to examine associations between state laws and school practices, after accounting for school demographic characteristics. Results Compared to schools in states with no law about engaging stakeholders in meal programs, schools in states with a law were more likely to conduct taste tests (64% vs 44%, P=0.016), collect suggestions from students (67% vs 50%, P=0.017), and invite family members to a school meal (71% vs 53%, P=0.015). Schools used more promotion strategies in states with a law than in states without a law (mean=10.4 vs 8.8, P=0.003). Schools were more likely to provide students at least 30 minutes to eat lunch after being seated in states with laws that addressed a minimum amount of time for lunch duration (43% vs 27%, P=0.042). Conclusions State-level policy provisions are associated with school practices. Policy development in more states may support school practices that promote lunch participation and consumption.