Institute for Education and Social Policy to Study Link Between Food Policy, Obesity, and Academic Performance

“Understanding how schools shape the health and fitness of their students is a critical step in making positive changes in our education system.” says Amy Ellen Schwartz, a professor of public policy, and director of Steinhardt’s Institute for Education and Social Policy (IESP). Schwartz and her team are looking at the connection between food policy, childhood obesity, and academic performance in New York City’s public schools. One study will examine how a 2003 New York City policy change, which made breakfast free for all students, has impacted school attendance and test scores. Another study will combine large-scale quantitative analyses, interviews with school food service personnel, and in-depth case studies of schools, to assess how the relationship between food policies — including meal access and access to snack machine and ‘out’ lunches – affects children’s weight, absenteeism rates, and test scores.

“Our goal is to provide guidance to school decision makers,” says Schwartz. “We hope current policies and practices will show us what works, for whom, and under what circumstances.”

Photo: Amy Ellen Schwartz