The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required school districts participating in the federal school meals program to establish by the start of the 2006-2007 school year policies that included nutrition guidelines for all foods sold on school campus during the school day and policy development involving key stakeholders. For many schools, policy development was done by wellness councils. This study examined the association between having a wellness council and availability of low-nutrient, energy-dense foods/beverages in school vending machines following enactment of the federal legislation. In 2006-2007, Minnesota middle (n=35) and high (n=54) school principals reported whether their school and district had a wellness council. Trained research staff observed foods/beverages in vending machines accessible to students. Low-nutrient, energy-dense foods/beverages (snacks >3 g fat or >200 calories/serving, and soda, fruit/sport drinks and reduced-fat/whole milk) were grouped into seven categories (eg, high-fat baked goods) and a food score was calculated. Higher scores indicated more low-nutrient, energy-dense vending fare. Multivariate linear regression, adjusted for school characteristics, was used to examine associations between scores and a three-category council variable (district-only; district and school; no council). Among schools, 53% had district-only councils, 38% district and school councils, and 9% had no council. Schools with both a district and school council had a significantly lower mean food score than schools without councils (P=0.03). The potential of wellness councils to impact availability of low-nutrient, energy-dense vending fare is promising. There may be an added benefit to having both a school and district council.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
FUNDING/SUPPORT: This research was funded through a grant from the National Cancer Institute as part of their Transdisciplinary Research in Energetics and Cancer Initiative (grant no. U54CA116849 ).