Category Archives: Publication Released

STUDY: Children eat more junk food and nearly twice as many calories when bringing their own snacks to after-school programs.

An HPRC study found that children consumed more salty and sugary foods and nearly twice as many calories when they brought their own after-school snack, as compared to when they consumed only program-provided snacks.

Little is known about how after-school settings may affect children’s dietary intake. Evidence suggests that snacks provided directly by afterschool programs rarely include sugary drinks, and afterschool programs receiving federal reimbursement for snacks must adhere to basic nutrition standards, but virtually nothing is known about the quality of snacks brought into after-school programs by children, whether from vending machines, local stores, or packed from home.

By recording snacks served to and brought in by nearly 300 children in 18 Boston after-school programs on five separate days, researchers found that nonprogram snacks contained more sugary beverages and candy than program provided snacks.   Having a non-program snack was associated with significantly higher consumption of total calories compared to when a child only had a program snack to eat.

Snacking accounts for nearly 30 percent of total calorie intake for most US children aged 2 to 18 years, which makes it an important target area for improving children’s diets and potentially reducing childhood obesity. These findings suggest that after-school programs are a key setting for improving children’s snacks, and that policy strategies limiting nonprogram snacks or setting nutritional standards should be explored further as a way to promote child health.

If you represent or are interested in making your child’s after school environment healthier, check out these resources for healthy snacks and beverages, including sample menus, family newsletters, policy writing guides for a better snack time, and a fast map for eliminating sugary drinks.

Kenney EL, Austin SB, Cradock AL, Giles CM, Lee RM, Davison KK, Gortmaker SL. Identifying Sources of Children’s Consumption of Junk Food in Boston After-School Programs, April-May 2011. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014 Nov 20;11:E205.

HPRC study demonstrates sustainable approach to addressing overweight risk among children

Primary care is an opportune setting to contribute to obesity prevention and treatment. However, there is limited evidence for effective and sustainable interventions in primary care. The Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative (MYOC) successfully affected office systems, provider behavior, and patient experience, back in 2009.

This follow-up study by HPRC’s Dr. Steven Gortmaker and Dr. Michele Polacsek found myoc sustainable improvements in clinical decision support and family management of risk behaviors within a primary-care-based approach to addressing overweight risk among children and youth.

Polacsek M, Orr J, O’Brien LM, Rogers VW, Fanburg J, Gortmaker SL. Sustainability of key maine youth overweight collaborative improvements: a follow-up study. Child Obes. 2014 Aug;10(4):326-33.

“Impact of the Boston Active School Day Policy to Promote Physical Activity Among Children”

A study by HPRC’s Dr. Angie Cradock, Jessica Barrett, and Dr. Steven Gortmaker found that Active School Day implementation increased student moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels and decreased sedentary time during school at modest cost.

The study took place in six elementary schools with three matched pairs and included 455 consenting fourth- and fifth-grade students in Boston, Massachusetts, from February to June 2011.