The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences a $1.2 million grant to study how school meal programs impact the mental and behaviorial health of children.
UAMS’ Center for the Study of Obesity will lead the three-year project. The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement is also a partner in the study, titled “The Impact of School Meal Delivery on Behavioral Disorders among Children in Health Disparity Populations.”
The study is associated with “addressing the aftermath of child hunger,” UAMS said in a news release.
“Food insecurity is a complex issue that overlaps many social, cultural, economic and policy issues,” Dr. Joe Thompson, president and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said in a statement. “To create actionable insights that guide successful policies, we need to foster strategic partnerships that bridge those areas and ground future decisions in data-based evidence.”
The research will focus on several areas, including school meal delivery policies, disciplinary outcomes and academic performance. The research findings could shed more light on how school meal programs impact mental health, UAMS said.
“If our preliminary hypothesis hold true, there will be profound implications on school meal policies,” Michael Thomsen, a professor in the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, said in a statement. “What we’re doing is something that can teach the entire nation about school meals. Childhood behaviorial disorders are a problem that resonates nationally. We’re uniquely positioned to answer questions about school meals and health in Arkansas because of our partnership with ACHI and its investments in statewide data analytics capabilities.”