Baylis MS, Jomaa LH, Chopade SN, McDonnell ET, Orlofsky CO, Probart CK
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. August 2007 (Suppl 3) 107:8. A-21.
Learning Outcome: School personnel may not understand the rationale for discouraging use of food rewards. Education is needed on this topic as well as lists of alternative rewards to share with schools.
Research suggests that food rewards to achieve short-term behavior changes undermine healthy behavior messages, encourage consumption of foods high in sugar and fat, and encourage children to eat regardless of hunger and satiety cues. Work conducted by our group suggests that food rewards may be common practice in schools. The recent requirement that schools develop wellness policies to address childhood obesity represents an ideal opportunity to address and discourage this practice. Several state and national organizations have recommended that schools adopt policies related to discouraging the use of food as a reward or punishment. However, schools are not required to include this specific policy goal. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which schools included and/or modified this goal. Wellness policies from 300 school districts in Pennsylvania were analyzed by entering wellness policy goals using a Microsoft Access database. Descriptive analyses of the 300 policies showed that 53% (n = 159) included a goal about food rewards. Of these policies, 49% stated that food will not be used as a reward or punishment. Slightly more than half (51%) modified this goal by stating that food rewards would be used in moderation, for educational purposes, or only healthy foods would be used. These results suggest that school personnel may not understand the rationale for discouraging use of food rewards. Education is needed on this topic as well as lists of alternative rewards to share with schools.