Abstract P102: Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables is Inversely Associated with Academic Performance Index Scores at a Large Urban School District
More than 26% and 22% of 5th and 7th graders, respectively, in Los Angeles County are obese. Recent efforts to address this public health problem have focused on system-level changes in the food environment, especially in school settings. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest district in the nation, serves well over 650,000 meals a day, 80% of which go to students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches (FRPL). Because the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) meals are often the primary source of nutrition for students from low-income families, this setting represents a natural opportunity to examine the effects of offering more healthful foods on student health and academic achievements. Effective in the 2011-12 school year, new standards for the NSLP included increased offerings of fruits and vegetables. Food production records from LAUSD were validated using data from plate waste studies at four randomly selected middle schools. Correlations between food production records and visually monitored plate waste varied by school size (r=0.194 and r=0.722 for large and small schools, respectively). Using school-level data (N=74), race/ethnicity was associated with Academic Performance Index (API) scores; the ethnic composition of each school was associated with the percent of students eligible for FRPL. Simple linear regression (SLR) analyses revealed an inverse association between consumption of fruits and vegetables and API scores (βFV=-1.44, p<0.001). The SLR also revealed an inverse association between percent of English learners and API score (βE=-5.81, p<0.001) as well as an inverse association between percent of students eligible for FRPL and API scores (βL=-3.13, p<0.001). The inverse relationship between healthful food consumption and standardized test scores may be a result of the high correlations between percent of English learners (E), percent of students eligible for FRPL (L) and weight of fruits and vegetables consumed per student (FV) (rE-L=0.80, p<0.001; rE-FV=0.52, p<0.001; rL-FV=0.68, p<0.001). These findings suggest that healthful eating may help optimize physical and cognitive development. Due to their significant contribution to the diets of school children, changes in school meal program offerings could broadly help improve nutrition for children in low-income areas.
- © 2013 by American Heart Association, Inc.