Nearly two-thirds (63%) of parents of school-age children, and 55% of Americans in general, describe the nutritional quality of local school food as "poor" or "only fair" -- and most want pizza, burgers and chicken nuggets pulled from school menus or limited to once per week.
These are findings from a survey conducted this month for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Lauer Johnson Research surveyed 801 adults representative of all regions of the country (overall margin of error was plus or minus 3.5%).
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930 by the cereal pioneer to advocate and support equitable access to good food and physical activity for vulnerable children and youth.
Nearly 70% of total respondents said that pizza should be removed from school menus or served just once per week, and more than 60% said the same about hamburgers and chicken nuggets.
At the same time, the top five school menu items identified by respondents were pizza, hamburgers, French fries/tater tots, hot dogs/corn dogs, and chicken nuggets -- all items "high in fat and/or sodium," notes the foundation. The most recent School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 90% of school lunch menus offer entrées such as pizza and cheeseburgers, the analysis adds.
The survey also found "near-universal" agreement that childhood obesity is a problem or crisis, and that improving children's health will require communities to make access to fresh produce and exercise in schools key priorities.
More than 85% said that fresh, rather than canned, fruits and vegetables should be offered daily in school cafeterias.
In addition, 86% listed requiring 60 minutes of daily exercise within the school day as a top or high priority in improving children's health, and 71% cited cutbacks in recess and physical education at school as a significant contributor to the obesity crisis.
The survey indicates "widespread support for transforming school food to help all children lead healthier lives," said Dr. Gail Christopher, VP of programs for the foundation.
The results were presented at the foundation's tenth annual Food & Community Networking Meeting, held this week in Chandler, Ariz. The event, focused on topics such as farm-to-school projects and eradicating "food deserts," drew 650 activists, researchers and public health officials, according to the organization.
The Kellogg Foundation has directed more than $230 million toward supporting healthy food and farming projects since the mid-1990s, and has earmarked $32.5 million over the next three years for its Food & Community initiative, which supports improved school food and physical activity programs.
The foundation's revenue comes primarily from investments of the trust fund set up by its founder. Its portfolio includes "substantial equity" in the Kellogg Company, but it is governed by an independent board of trustees.