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Working Healthy Snacks Into After-School Programs

Article / Review by on February 22, 2012 – 8:42 pmNo Comments

Working Healthy Snacks Into After-School Programs

Nutritious snacks don’t have to bust budgets, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers conclude in a new study that analyzed the cost of foods served in YMCA after-school programs in four U.S. cities. While the prices of individual healthy snacks are typically higher than those of their processed-food counterparts, the researchers found simple strategies maWorking Healthy Snacks Into After-School Programsde healthy snacks more affordable.


The study appears in the February 2012 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease.

“Price is frequently cited as a barrier to purchasing healthy foods,” said Rebecca Mozaffarian, project manager for the YMCA/Harvard program at HSPH and lead author. “We wanted to identify practical strategies for program staff to purchase and serve healthful after-school snacks without increases in price.”

The researchers, including senior author Steven Gortmaker, professor of the practice of health sociology and director of the HSPH Health Prevention Research Center, analyzed 1,294 snack menus from 32 YMCA programs. The menus were part of a national YMCA-driven initiative to promote nutrition and physical activity among children.

In addition to substituting water for juice, researchers offered a number of strategies to keep the cost of healthier snacks down:

  • Do not serve sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Serve water every day.
  • Serve a fruit and/or low-priced vegetable (such as carrots or celery) every day.
  • Allocate price savings from replacing 100% juice with tap water towards purchasing and serving whole fruit because of its higher fiber content and effects on satiety.
  • Offer fresh fruits or vegetables over more expensive canned or frozen versions.
  • When serving grains (such as bread, crackers, and cereals), serve whole grains.
  • Avoid foods with trans fat.

“Price and healthfulness of snacks in 32 YMCA after-school programs in 4 US metropolitan areas, 2006-2008,” Mozaffarian, Rebecca S., Andry, Analisa, Lee, Rebekka M., Wiecha, Jean L., Gortmaker, Steven L.,Preventing Chronic Disease: 2012;9:110097.

Funding for the study was provided by the Donald and Sue Pritzker Nutrition and Fitness Initiative and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By Marge Dwyer

Read the study

Learn more:

HSPH Prevention Research Center: YMCA-Harvard Afterschool Food and Fitness Project

Food & Fun Afterschool: Information on the standards and free downloads like these sample snack menus

photo: iStockphoto/ktaylorg


About Harvard Medical School (HMS)

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“Since 1872, Harvard Medical School has been the incubator of bold ideas—a place where extraordinary people advance education, science and health care with unrelenting passion.

Whether training tomorrow’s doctors and scientists, decoding the fundamental nature of life, advancing patient care or improving health delivery systems around the world, we are never at rest. Allied with some of the world’s best hospitals, research institutes and a University synonymous with excellence, the School’s mission remains as ambitious as it is honorable: to alleviate human suffering caused by disease.”

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About Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)

Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public’s health through learning, discovery and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children’s health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights.

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About Harvard University.

Established in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States. The University, which is based in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, has an enrollment of over 20,000 degree candidates, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Harvard has more than 360,000 alumni around the world.

Harvard University is devoted to excellence in teaching, learning, and research, and to developing leaders in many disciplines who make a difference globally. Harvard faculty are engaged with teaching and research to push the boundaries of human knowledge. For students who are excited to investigate the biggest issues of the 21st century, Harvard offers an unparalleled student experience and a generous financial aid program, with over $160 million awarded to more than 60% of our undergraduate students. The University has twelve degree-granting Schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, offering a truly global education.

‘Universities nurture the hopes of the world: in solving challenges that cross borders; in unlocking and harnessing new knowledge; in building cultural and political understanding; and in modeling environments that promote dialogue and debate… The ideal and breadth of liberal education that embraces the humanities and arts as well as the social and natural sciences is at the core of Harvard’s philosophy. ’/ Drew Gilpin Faust

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* The above story is adapted from materials provided by Harvard University

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