SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Springdale School District sustained a reduction in sodium levels in student lunches for the last five years as part of a collaboration with the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences (UAMS) Office of Community Health & Research.

As part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Sodium Reduction in Communities Program, UAMS researchers evaluated the changes in sodium levels in the Springdale Public Schools system over a five-year period and found that school officials were able to maintain sodium reductions in school lunches served to students, even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a Community Health & Research-led study, published recently in the CDC’s “Preventing Chronic Disease Journal,” the amount of sodium offered per entrée in Springdale Schools was 12% less last year than it was five years earlier.

“The impact of this program is a major breakthrough in improving the health and eating habits of future generations,” said Christopher Long, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Office of Community Health & Research. “The Springdale School District deserves the recognition and respect for implementing the principals of the program and maintaining them for five years, paving the way for other school districts to follow.”

According to the CDC, most Americans consume more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium — more commonly known as salt — each day, far more than the daily recommendation of 2,300 milligrams. Too much sodium intake can lead to increased blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions.

As part of the program, UAMS staff worked with the district to implement new strategies to reduce sodium intake among students, such as modifying recipes to offer healthier, cost-effective alternatives to students without sacrificing quality or taste.

“The partnership between Springdale Schools and UAMS has been positive and productive,” said Gena Smith, child nutrition director at the Springdale School District. “Current sodium level requirements have been met with additional staff training and assistance with menu modifications. The team at UAMS has been sensitive to the challenges that school nutrition professionals face each day. We are very appreciative of their joint efforts to provide nutritious meals to students.”

The Springdale School District is home to more than 20,000 students and 30 individual schools.