The Diet Quality of a Sample of Predominantly Racial Minority Children From Low-Income Households Is Lower During the Summer vs School Year: Results From the Project Summer Weight and Environmental Assessment Trial Substudy

Published:August 14, 2020DOI:



      Little is known about the diet quality of racial minority children during the summertime when school is out of session and there is risk of accelerated weight gain. Project Summer Weight and Environmental Assessment Trial was an observational, prospective study exploring child weight status and health trends during the summer.


      The objective of this substudy of Project Summer Weight and Environmental Assessment Trial was to examine the diet quality of elementary-aged racial minority children during the summertime vs school year.


      This observational, prospective substudy was conducted from June to September 2017.


      Students in prekindergarten through fifth grade were recruited from 2 schools located in low-income urban neighborhoods of Columbus, OH, with a predominantly Black population. Sixty-two children (39 families) enrolled.

      Main outcome measures

      Twenty-four-hour dietary recalls (2 weekdays, 1 weekend day) were collected at 3 time points: (1) beginning of summer (T0); (2) midsummer (T1); and (3) beginning of subsequent school year (T2). Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2015 total and component scores were calculated to assess diet quality. Daily calories (kilocalories) and servings of types of foods within food groups were also assessed.

      Statistical analyses

      Repeated measures analysis of variance and Tukey’s post hoc analyses were performed.


      Retention was 76% (n = 47). Mean age was 7.0 ± 0.3 years, 79% (n = 37) were African American, and 58% of participants (n = 26) reported annual household incomes ≤$20,000. HEI-2015 total score was significantly lower during the summertime vs school year (P = .02). HEI-2015 component score for whole fruits (P = .04) was also lower in the summer vs school year, along with total vegetables (P < .001), greens and beans (P < .001) specifically, and legumes (P < .001). The HEI-2015 component score for added sugars (P = .04) was significantly lower in the summer vs the school year as well, indicating a higher intake of added sugars during the summer. On the other hand, whole grains were higher during the summer vs school year (P < .01), specifically snack chips (P = .03) and popcorn (P < .01). Total daily calories did not differ between the summertime vs school year.


      In a small sample of predominantly racial minority school-aged children from low-income households, child diet quality is better during the school year vs summer. Future research is needed to determine if and to what extent summer vs school year diet quality may be associated with differences in weight status.


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      L. C. Hopkins is an assistant professor, Baldwin Wallace University, Department of Public Health and Prevention Science, Berea, OH.


      S. Tiba is a research assistant, Department of Human Sciences, Human Nutrition Program, Dietetics Specialization, College of Education and Human Ecology, Columbus.


      M. Westrick is a research assistant, College of Public Health, all at the Ohio State University, Columbus.


      C. Gunther is an associate professor, Department of Human Sciences, Human Nutrition Program, Dietetics Specialization, College of Education and Human Ecology, Columbus.