Investigating Student Academic Achievement, Discipline, and Attendance Outcomes of Nutrition Education Programs Using State Longitudinal Data Systems
Edwards, Stephanie Lynn
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In 2016, 12.3% of households in the United States (U.S), or 15.6 million people, were food insecure during some part of the year. Food insecurity is more prevalent among households with children, and has been shown to have adverse effects on child development, aggressive behavior, psycho-social development, and academic performance. Nutrition assistance and education programs play critical roles in alleviating food insecurity. The Virginia 365 Project (VA365) was a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded multi-level school- and home-based approach aimed at reducing food insecurity in low-income areas of Virginia through meal programs and nutrition education for parents through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education Program (SNAP-Ed). Impacts of coordinated nutrition assistance programs for children have generally focused on food security or nutrition outcomes, not broader impacts on academic achievement, attendance, and aggressive behavior. This study examined the feasibility of using school-level surveillance data, collected in state longitudinal data systems, to detect changes in academic and behavioral outcomes, using the VA365 program as a case study. Relevant data indicators were identified and compared from the Virginia Longitudinal Data System and from the longitudinal data systems from other Mid-Atlantic region (MARO) SNAP-Ed states (n=9) to determine generalizability to other states for broader program impacts. Results provide a greater understanding of the potential for accessing existing school-level data to document the public value of school-based nutrition programs beyond improved food security and dietary intake to include academic achievement, discipline and attendance outcomes.
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