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Food Education Success Stories: Mississippi Healthy Students Act

Mississippi is a state that has long struggled with high obesity rates, but it seems that a state mandate that included food education may have had an impact on reducing obesity levels among youth.

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Canton Elementary in Canton, MS, increased nutrition education and physical activity as a result of the Mississippi Healthy Students Act, encouraging students to make healthier choices.

Passed in 2007, the Mississippi Healthy Students Act mandates that schools statewide provide a minimum of 45 minutes of health education, including nutrition and physical activity, per week. To help schools comply with the act, the Mississippi Office of Healthy Schools created a list of approved supplemental resources including curricula, training, and equipment for educators. According to a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the percentage of schools with at least 75 percent of students receiving health education doubled between 2006 and 2008.

A study in 2011 found a decrease in the prevalence of overweight and obesity for elementary age and adolescent children, a reversal after decades of steady increases. While the school environment is not the only factor in reducing obesity levels—home environment obviously also plays a major role—the combination of education and changes in the school food environment have almost certainly contributed to these outcomes.

Mississippi has even received encouragement for their efforts around health promotion and food education by First Lady Michelle Obama, who made a special point of stopping in Clinton, MS, in February of 2013 as part of her “Let’s Move” tour. Mrs. Obama praised the state for a 13% drop in obesity rates among the general population since 2005.

Photo credit: The Mississippi Link

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