BOSTON -- Open a child's lunch box and you're likely to find that the lunches and snacks inside fall short of federal guidelines. Those are the findings of a study conducted by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. The findings are published online ahead of print in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Led by senior author Jeanne Goldberg, Ph.D., R.D., a professor at the Friedman School, the study is among the first to examine what children bring to school for lunch and snack. The researchers used digital photography to document the lunches and snacks of more than 600 Massachusetts third and fourth graders in 12 schools in six public school districts. Goldberg and colleagues compared students' lunch and snack items to federal National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and Child and Adult Food Care Program (CAFCP) standards, respectively. They found that only 27% of the lunches met at least three of the five NSLP standards, and only 4% of snacks met at least two of the four CAFCP standards, both of which emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low- or non-fat dairy.
The findings highlight the challenges associated with packing healthful items to send to school. "When deciding what to pack, parents are juggling time, cost, convenience, and what is acceptable to their children. Unfortunately, these factors are not always in harmony with good nutrition," Goldberg said.
"Lunches were comprised more of packaged foods than anything else," Goldberg said. "Almost a quarter of the lunches lacked what would be considered an entre, such as a sandwich or leftovers, and were instead made up of a variety of packaged snack foods and desserts."
"The few existing studies on packed lunches report that children who bring their lunch tend to consume fewer fruits and vege
|Contact: Andrea Grossman|
Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus