Rural Disparities in the distribution of policies that support healthy eating in US secondary schools

Marilyn S. Nanney, Cynthia S. Davey, Martha Y. Kubik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The distribution of food and nutrition policies and practices from 28 US states representing 6,732 secondary schools was evaluated using data from the 2008 School Health Profiles principal survey. School policies and practices evaluated were: availability of low-nutrient, energy-dense (LNED) snacks/drinks; use of healthy eating strategies; banning food marketing; availability of fruits and vegetables; and food package sizes. For each school, school-level demographic characteristics (percentage of students enrolled in free/reduced-price meals, minority enrollment, and geographic location) were also evaluated. Schools in small town/rural locations had significantly fewer policies that support healthy eating strategies and ban food marketing, and were less likely to serve fruits and vegetables at school celebrations, have fruits and vegetables available in vending or school stores, and limit serving-size packages. Schools serving the highest percentage of minority students consistently reported the same or better school food environments. However, schools serving the highest percentage of low-income students had varied results: vending and LNED vending policies were consistently better and fruit and vegetable availability-related policies were consistently worse. Disparities in the distribution of policies and practices that promote healthy school food environments seem most pronounced in small town/rural schools. The dataalso support the need for continued reinforcement and the potential for expansion of these efforts in urban and suburban areas and schools with highest minority enrollment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1062-1068
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Food policy
  • Rural disparities
  • School nutrition

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