Framing Federal School Nutrition Policy: The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in the Nation’s News

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Journal of Health Communication

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The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) represented a major and controversial overhaul of national nutrition standards for foods served in the United States’ nearly 100,000 public schools. To unpack how debate over this far-reaching policy was presented to the public, we examined 152 national print; network, network affiliate, and cable television; and public radio news stories about the policy, all appearing during the window surrounding its scheduled reauthorization (9/1/14–1/31/16). We found that HHFKA opponents were more likely to argue from a smaller set of frames that comprised a concise, clear narrative they frequently repeated, while proponents drew from a broader range of frames, each used less frequently, to present their position. In addition, key voices expected to be prominent in a debate over child health—children and parents—were relatively deemphasized. Overall, the primary frames on either side of this debate argued past one another, leaving largely unanswered critical charges about the role of government in assuring the public’s health. This debate reflects deeper arguments at the root of many public health policy decisions, and as such, is an illustrative case example for those planning how to enter and help shape national debate over public health policy.



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