Evaluating Programs and Policies for Healthy Food Alternatives in Southern California Schools
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In the past few years, an enormous amount of attention has been focused on the issue of obesity and its attendant health risks, including the prevalence of overweight among school-aged children. New programs and policies have been adopted at the school district, city, regional, state and national levels to address these problems, though such initiatives have yet to be fully developed and institutionalized. Moreover, efforts to develop and implement such obesity prevention approaches by engaging such stakeholders as students and youth, parents, and teachers have also been limited. This report seeks to analyze the issue of obesity in relation to food and nutrition in Southern California schools, highlighting the Los Angeles Unified School District. It evaluates the development of new and innovative model programs, policies, and educational initiatives for healthy food choices in the region, as well as the barriers for establishing and implementing them. The report indicates that while LAUSD has established important and sometimes farreaching healthy food policies and programs, implementation has been uneven and has not fully engaged key school food stakeholders, including students, teachers, and parents. Innovative programs have been explored, but have not yet been institutionalized or have been abandoned. The report concludes with recommendations for addressing these barriers and further expanding and institutionalizing model healthy school food programs and policies. Key recommendations include establishing more inclusive mechanisms for policy implementation, such as for the selection of healthy beverages and cafeteria choices, and a plan to implement key goals, such as the development of salad bar programs.