(CNN)"This is a song about the high school experience, sung through the eyes of the person who -- more than anyone else -- puts young people on the right path," said Adam Sandler in a 1994 Saturday Night Livesketch. "I'm not talking about the teachers. I'm not talking about the coaches. I'm not even talking about the guidance counselors. I'm talking about a person we call the lunch lady."
Beyond making us laugh -- and providing Chris Farley an opportunity to dance his aproned heart out -- it seems Sandler was on to something.
More than 30 million students eat school meals every day, and many of them rely on school foods for up to half of their daily calories.
"Therefore, school-based interventions that encourage the selection and consumption of healthier school food components can have important health implications, especially if they are sustainable and economically feasible," writes Juliana Cohen, the lead author of a studypublished Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.
Crafting better M.E.A.L.S.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health teamed up with the non-profit anti-hunger organization Project Bread to create the Modifying Eating and Lifestyles at School (MEALS) study, a randomized clinical trial in two urban, low-income school districts.
Subjects consisted of more than 2,500 third- through eighth-grade students from 14 elementary and middle schools in Massachusetts.
The team set out to examine the short- and long-term effects of a professional chef and the effect of extended daily exposure to a choice architecture intervention on students' school food selection and consumption. "Choice architecture" is a term that is used to describe the different ways in which choices can be presented to consumers and the impact of that presentation on consumer decision-making.
"Overall, we found that both collaborating with a chef to enhance the school meals and using choice architecture techniques provide benefits," write the study's authors. "However, improving food quality and palatability was a more effective long-term method to increase consumption of healthier school foods." See Full Article: http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/23/health/healthy-school-lunches/index.html
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