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Change in School Nutrition-Related Laws from 2003 to 2008: Evidence from the School Nutrition Environment State Policy Classification System

Mâsse LM, Perna F, Agurs-Collins T, and Chriqui JF. American Journal of Public Health, 103(9):1597-603, 2013.

Objectives: We examined state laws affecting the school food environment and changes in these laws between 2003 to 2008.  Methods. We used the Westlaw legal database to identify state-codified laws, with scoring derived from the updated School Nutrition-Environment State Policy Classification System, obtained from the Classification of Laws Associated With School Students Web site. 

Results: States significantly changed their school nutrition laws from 2003 to 2008, and many increased the stringency of the laws targeting competitive foods (snacks and entrées sold in competition with the school meal) and beverages sold in school and for in-school fundraising. Many states enacted laws that mandated the establishment of a coordinating or advisory wellness team or council. Stronger laws were enacted for elementary grades. We found tremendous variability in the strength of the laws and plenty of room for improvement. 

Conclusions: State law governing school nutrition policies significantly changed from 2003 to 2008, primarily affecting the competitive food environment in schools. The extent to which changes in school nutrition laws will lead to desired health outcomes is an area for additional research.

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