Seventy-eight percent of U.S. voters think schools should meet higher nutrition standards for all foods served or sold to students, and many of them are willing to help pay for that, according to a new poll released Monday.
Commissioned by the “Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project,” a recently launched effort by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the poll also found that:
• A majority of voters — 61 percent — support an increase in school nutrition program funding of 1 percent annually, or about $135 million. Forty-three percent are strongly in favor. Seventy-six percent of self-identified Democrats support increased funding, as do 60 percent of self-identified Independents and 43 percent of self-identified Republicans.
• Eighty-one percent of voters favor helping schools pay for more nutritious food, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Seventy percent of voters support providing school cafeteria workers with more training to help them cook safe and healthier meals. Fifty-nine percent favor helping schools pay for new cafeteria equipment to help workers prepare healthier meals.
• Seventy-eight percent of voters say schools should be required to make all foods served and sold in cafeteria lunch lines meet higher nutrition standards. Seventy-seven percent of voters say that candy, soda and chips in school vending machines should be replaced with water, juice and healthy snacks.
The survey was jointly conducted by American Viewpoint, one of the country’s leading Republican polling firms, and Hart Research Associates, whose clients are primarily Democrats and labor groups. The pollsters surveyed 1,007 registered voters from Dec. 8 to 15, 2010. Respondents were contacted by telephone, including 150 who were interviewed via cell phone.
The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat and nonfat milk to school meals, while limiting calories and reducing the amount of unhealthy fats and sodium. The agency is seeking public comments on the proposed standards through April 13, 2011.
The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project intends to provide nonpartisan analysis and evidence-based recommendations to help ensure that:
• USDA adopts science-based nutrition standards for all foods and beverages served and sold in schools;
• Schools have the resources they need to train cafeteria employees and replace outdated and broken kitchen equipment; and
• USDA develops and implements rigorous school food safety policies.
The project will submit expert recommendations to the USDA as it finalizes its proposed nutrition standards.
To learn how to get involved in this effort, provide comments on the USDA’s proposed changes or access a copy of the poll findings, visit www.HealthySchoolFoodsNow.org.