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Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate challenges faced by high schools in rural Appalachia in implementing the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). Methodology: We used qualitative, secondary analysis to analyze a collection of thirteen focus groups and 22 interviews conducted in 2013-14 among parents, teachers, and high school students in six counties in rural Appalachian Tennessee (n=98). Results: Five basic themes were identified during the thematic analysis: poor food quality prior to implementation of the HHFKA school nutrition reforms; students’ preference for low-nutrient energy-dense foods; low acceptance of healthier options after implementation of the HHFKA school nutrition reforms; HHFKA school nutrition reforms not tailored to unique needs of under-resourced communities; and students opting out of the National School Lunch Program after implementation of the HHFKA school nutrition reforms. Rural communities face multiple and intersecting challenges in implementing the HHFKA school nutrition reforms. Conclusion: As a result, schools in rural Appalachia may be less likely to derive benefits from these reforms. The ability of rural schools to take advantage of school nutrition reforms to improve student health may depend largely on factors unique to each community or school.

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This document was originally published in Journal of Health Science & Education.

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