We all know that parents and other role models, such as teachers, can influence a child’s lifestyle and food choices. Until recently little was known about the dietary habits of elementary-school employees, a key target group for improving school nutrition.

Reporting in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers examined the daily food intakes of staff at 22 elementary schools in a suburban county of southeastern Louisiana that were part of the ACTION Worksite Wellness Trial, a school-based study. What the scientists found wasn’t pretty.

Approximately 31% of the employees were considered overweight, while 40% were obese, a rate higher than state and national estimates. About 45% of the sample exceeded the daily dietary fat recommendations, and only 9% got enough fiber each day. Only 7% met the MyPyramid recommendations for fruits and vegetables.

“These results suggest that greater attention be directed to understanding and improving the diets of school
employees, given their high rates of overweight and obesity, poor diets and important role in student health,” the authors said.