With the start of school only weeks away, there is finally some good news about childhood obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the obesity rate among preschoolers in low-income families has fallen in 19 states and American territories. This decline is encouraging, but there is still ample room for improvement. One in eight preschoolers in the United States is currently obese, and overweight preschoolers are more likely to become overweight adolescents and adults.
Continued progress requires addressing obesity on multiple fronts and in a range of settings. We already know that when schools adopt healthier menus for student meals, the proportion of students who are overweight declines. But in many cases, meals are only part of schools’ nutrition environment, which increasingly includes vending machines or “snack bars.”[i] In an announcement earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which also sets standards for school meals, issued revised standards for these other foods and beverages sold in schools.