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MN Study: Lower-Income Kids Eat More Sugar in Summer

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ST. PAUL, Minn. - A new study shows Minnesota children from households that experience food insecurity drink more sugary beverages during the summer months - especially on the weekends.

Study author Jiwoo Lee with the University of Minnesota said lower-income children have the benefit of nutritionally-balanced meals at school during much of the year. But many don't use similar programs offered over the summer, and they end up eating far less nutritious food than kids from homes where food scarcity isn't an issue.

"Only 22% of children who receive meals though the school lunch program use the summer food service programs," Lee said. "So, that indicates a limited reach and under-utilization as well."

The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, included children ages 8-12. Lee believes the research suggests nutrition-assistance programs are needed year-round, and could also improve weekend meals for children from families who don't always have enough money for food. Summer traditionally means kids playing outdoors and getting lots of exercise.

But Lee said it's also when schedules are more relaxed, and kids spend more time on digital devices - and then, reach for sugary foods and drinks. "Soda would be one of the main sources of sugar-sweetened beverages that we looked at," she said. "And I think that's important to note, because summer is a time that kids tend to gain weight."

Research indicates about 10% of Minnesota's young people ages 10-17 are considered obese. That is well below the national average of nearly 16% - but triple the state's obesity rate for children 40 years ago.

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