New poll: Alabama parents support new national school lunch standards

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Alabama voters across multiple sub-sections support newly-implemented federal school lunch standards, according to a poll released this morning by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Program and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The national standards — which include components such as providing more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limits on sugar and processed foods — find support from an overwhelming 75 percent of Alabamians, the poll found, including 71 percent of parents with children currently in public schools.

“It is gratifying that parents across the state support the updated nutrition standards, which are driving our efforts to provide their children with the healthiest possible meals at school,” said Melinda Bonner, director of child nutrition services for Hoover City Schools and legislative chair of the Alabama School Nutrition Association. “Research shows that healthy school meals can help improve students’ diets and even reduce obesity. The 14,000 students in Hoover—and the more than 700,000 students across our state—deserve the best we can give them.”

Among the key findings of the poll, which included an oversampling of parents:

  • 95 percent of voters, and 96 percent of parents, support requirin schools to include a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal.
  • 71 percent of voters and 70 percent of parents think schools should provide foods made from whole grains with every meal.
  • 73 percent of voters and 69 percent of parents say salt should be limited.
  • 67 percent of voters and 64 percent of parents support the current nutrition standards requiring healthier snack foods and drinks.

Amid a national debate over limits of vending machines in schools and the feds’ role in food policy, the children’s health group said the poll affirms ongoing efforts to transform school lunch into a diet lynchpin for Alabama’s youth.

“Nearly all Alabama schools are serving the healthier meals now required, and this poll shows that parents are on board with these changes,” said Jessica Donze Black, director of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project. “Good nutrition starts at home and continues at school. We’re pleased that parents and voters recognize that healthy food at school is critical for students’ health and their academic success.”

According to a news release, Alabama districts participating in national school meal programs served more than 129 million meals during the 2013-14 school year, drawing down more than $272 million in federal reimbursements through the national school breakfast and lunch programs. Lunches served in more than 95 percent of districts statewide met the healthier requirements at issue in the new poll as of 2014.

The study was conducted Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates using a sample of 600 registered voters, including 222 parents or guardians of children in K-12 public or charter schools, with a margin of error of 4 percent.

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