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Gallup Poll Finds Support for School Nutrition Mandates

A recent Gallup poll finds strong support for a law that limits food sold in public schools to those that meet standards for high nutritional value.

According to a recent Gallup survey, two-thirds of Americans say that, if given the opportunity, they would vote for a law that limits food sold in public schools to those that meet standards for high nutritional value. Three-quarters of parents with children currently enrolled in public school and nearly two-thirds of nonpublic school parents favor this proposal.

The poll, conducted March 8-9, also finds a smaller majority of Americans, 57%, favor such laws when the question specifies that the nutritional standards for school meals would also apply to food sold in vending machines, snack bars, and at bake sales. This wording was asked of a separate half sample of respondents.

Notably, public-school parents are less likely than nonpublic school parents to favor the policy when it specifically mentions the outlets for so-called "competitive foods"—vending machines, snack bars, and bake sales—that USDA nutritional guidelines would cover.

Gallup found that Americans broadly reject banning home-packed food, even though the proposal is asked in the context of others made "to improve the nutritional value of foods students eat while at school." Eighty-one percent of respondents, including 79% of parents and 82% of non-parents, say they would vote against a law prohibiting students from bringing packed lunches or snacks to school.

Americans generally believe a policy regulating the nutritional standards of competitive foods, in addition to school meals, would be effective in combating childhood obesity and improving students' academic performance, two major goals of the policy. However, relatively few believe it would have a major effect on these goals.

Specifically, 59% say the policy would be effective at reducing obesity in children, including 19% who say it would be very effective. Just over half say it would be effective at improving students' academic performance, including 13% calling it "very effective."

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