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J Sch Health. 2011 Mar;81(3):146-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2010.00573.x.

Would students prefer to eat healthier foods at school?

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Dr. Robert C and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, University of California, Berkeley, 119 Morgan Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.



This study sought to elucidate students' perceptions of school food environments and to assess correlations between perceptions and purchasing and consumption behaviors at school.


Seventh and ninth graders (n = 5365) at 19 schools in multiethnic, low-income California communities participating in the Healthy Eating Active Communities program completed questionnaires assessing their attitudes and behaviors regarding school food environments during spring 2006.


Most students (69%) reported that fresh fruit was important to be able to buy at school; more than chips (21%), candy (28%), or soda (31%). Reported importance of food offerings was correlated with the consumption of those items. Most students did not perceive foods/beverages offered at school to be healthy; fewer than a quarter reported eating fruits or vegetables (FV) at school. Students eating school lunch were more than twice as likely to consume FV, though if they also purchased from competitive venues, their consumption of candy, chips, and soda was similar to their peers who purchased only competitive foods.


Students report healthy foods to be important to be able to buy at school, but do not perceive their school food environment to be healthy and consume more unhealthy foods at school. Students served healthy items via school lunch are more likely to consume them; however, they also purchase and consume unhealthy items if available. Findings suggest that modifying school food environments to facilitate consumption of healthy foods and limit unhealthy foods will better match students' preferences and could lead to improved dietary intake.

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