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School-based nutrition education programs

Health Factors: Diet & Exercise
Decision Makers: Educators Local Government State Government Federal Government
Evidence Rating: Some Evidence
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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School-based nutrition education programs have educational components (e.g., classroom instruction by teachers, nutrition education integrated across curricula, peer training), environmental components (e.g., school menus, classroom snacks & special treats), and/or other components (e.g., family education and involvement, community involvement). Specific components vary by program. Some states regulate nutrition education programs, and the federal government sponsors others.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Improved dietary habits
Increased fruit & vegetable consumption
Reduced sweetened beverage consumption

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that school-based nutrition education programs increase healthy eating habits (Howerton 2007, Knai 2006, Kropski 2008, McKenna 2010). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Early evidence was insufficient to determine the effectiveness of school-based nutrition programs (CG-Nutrition). However, in recent studies, school-based nutrition interventions have been shown to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables (Howerton 2007, Knai 2006) and promote healthy diets (Van Cauwenberghe 2012, Dunton 2010). Such interventions may also reduce sugar sweetened beverage consumption (Kropski 2008).

Educational interventions may be more effective for girls (Kropski 2008), and may be more effective for all students when combined with other policies (Kropski 2008, McKenna 2010, Van Cauwenberghe 2012, Dunton 2010).


United States

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) runs the Obesity Prevention Project which supports states in creating policy tools (such as nutrition education programs) to reduce obesity rates (NASBE-Student health). Team Nutrition is a US Department of Agriculture program that supports Child Nutrition Programs through training and technical assistance (USDA-Team nutrition).


Wisconsin participates in Team Nutrition (WI DPI-Nutrition). UW Extension provides nutrition education resources for classroom use (UW Ext-WNEP).

Implementation Resources

SNA - School Nutrition Association (SNA). Teaching kids about nutrition. Accessed on January 10, 2018
WI DPI-Nutrition - Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).Team nutrition. Accessed on January 10, 2018

Citations - Evidence

CG-Nutrition - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Nutrition. Accessed on January 10, 2018
Dunton 2010* - Dunton GF, Durand CP, Riggs NR, Pentz MA. School-based obesity-prevention programs. In: Bagchi D, ed. Global perspectives on childhood obesity: Current status, consequences, and prevention. Waltham: Academic Press; 2010:319–31. Accessed on January 10, 2018
Howerton 2007* - Howerton MW, Bell BS, Dodd KW, et al. School-based nutrition programs produced a moderate increase in fruit and vegetable consumption: Meta and pooling analyses from 7 studies. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2007;39(4):186-96. Accessed on January 10, 2018
Knai 2006* - Knai C, Pomerleau J, Lock K, McKee M. Getting children to eat more fruit and vegetables: A systematic review. Preventive Medicine. 2006;42(2):85-95. Accessed on January 10, 2018
Kropski 2008 - Kropski JA, Keckley PH, Jensen GL. School-based obesity prevention programs: An evidence-based review. Obesity. 2008;16(5):1009-18. Accessed on January 10, 2018
McKenna 2010 - McKenna ML. Policy options to support healthy eating in schools. Canadian Journal of Public Health. Revue Canadienne de Santé Publique. 2010;101(8 Suppl 2):S14-7. Accessed on January 10, 2018
Van Cauwenberghe 2012 - Van Cauwenberghe E, Maes L, Spittaels H, et al. Effectiveness of school-based interventions in Europe to promote healthy nutrition in children and adolescents: Systematic review of published and “grey” literature. British Journal of Nutrition. 2010;103(6):781-97. Accessed on January 10, 2018

Citations - Implementation

NASBE-Student health - National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). Student health. Accessed on January 10, 2018
USDA-Team nutrition - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Team nutrition. Accessed on January 10, 2018
UW Ext-WNEP - University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension (UW Ext). Wisconsin nutrition education program (WNEP). Accessed on January 10, 2018
WI DPI-Nutrition - Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).Team nutrition. Accessed on January 10, 2018

Page Last Updated

January 10, 2014

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