Schools, Families, & Communities

Schools, families, and communities play a role in shaping children’s eating behaviors. Reducing the prevalence of obesity and changing the food environment will require numerous strategies. Some are top-down, such as federally mandated nutrition requirements for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Others are bottom-up in the form of community and grassroots efforts such as providing support to parents, teachers, and administrators nationally who want to change the school environment.

Over the past few decades, the availability of unhealthy foods in school environments has increased dramatically. Cafeteria food, vending machines, a la carte cafeteria lines, and school stores have become sources of unhealthy food. When unhealthy foods are present they compete with the school meal program, and in turn, drain student participation and compromise student health.

Most school children spend a majority of their time at school, and for many children, school provides the only nutritious meal of the day. Schools are in a unique position of influencing large numbers of children, and improving this food environment may be one of the most efficient ways of changing how children eat.