(HealthDay News) -- The amount of unhealthy foods and drinks available in American secondary schools has declined, especially in states with strong school nutrition standards and policies, says a federal government study released Monday.
Among 34 states that collected 2006-08 data, the median percentage of secondary schools that didn't sell soda, or fruit drinks that aren't 100 percent fruit juice, increased from 38 percent in 2006 to 63 percent in 2008. The median percentage of secondary schools that didn't sell candy, or salty snacks not low in fat, also rose from 46 percent to 64 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mississippi and Tennessee made the most progress in school nutrition, the researchers found. For example, the median percentage of secondary schools in Mississippi that didn't sell soda or fruit drinks that aren't 100 percent fruit juice increased from 22 percent in 2006 to 75 percent in 2008, while in Tennessee the percentage increased from 27 percent to 74 percent.
The two states are considered national leaders in adopting strong school nutrition standards.
"Efforts to improve the school nutrition environment are working, and Mississippi and Tennessee are excellent examples of this progress," Howell Wechsler, director of CDC's division of adolescent and school health, said in a news release. "However, there are still far too many schools selling less nutritious foods and beverages."
Data for 2008 was collected from 47 states, 20 cities and four territories. It revealed that more than two-thirds of secondary schools in California, Connecticut, Hawaii and Maine don't sell baked goods, salty snacks not low in fat, candy, soda or fruit drinks that aren't 100 percent juice, according to a CDC news release. But less than one-third of secondary schools in Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska and Utah did not sell these items, it said.
"The school environment is a key setting for influencing children's food choices and eating habits," Wechsler said. "By ensuring that only healthy food options are available, schools can model healthy eating behaviors, help improve students' diets, and help young people establish lifelong health eating habits."
The study appears in the Oct. 5 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The Nemours Foundation offers advice about healthy school lunches.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Oct. 5, 2009
Last Updated: Oct. 05, 2009
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