Healthy food service guidelines: An impactful strategy for promoting health in institutions

Various public and private institutions purchase, serve, and sell food to specific populations. Such institutions include schools, universities healthcare facilities, shelters, correctional facilities, and agencies that provide free meals to people with low-incomes. These entities are a consistent source of food for millions of people in the United States, and some disproportionately serve populations that experience inequitable access to healthy foods. They hold significant purchasing power that could be better leveraged to support healthy eating. Implementing healthy food service guidelines is an evidence-based strategy to improve the food environment in these settings. A growing body of research from schools, hospitals, public facilities, and congregate meal sites demonstrates that food service guidelines can lead to positive changes in the food environment, diet quality, and chronic disease risk factors. They also appear to be financially neutral or favorable.

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