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Strict <em>Salmonella</em> standards contribute to safety of school lunches

Friday, February 27, 2015

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides about half of the ground beef served in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) by purchasing raw and cooked ground beef products from U.S. meat producers. AMS-approved suppliers must meet AMS’s basic standards. AMS suppliers can be “active” and sell to the NSLP or be “inactive” and sell in commercial markets only. Active ground beef suppliers must adhere to a strict Salmonella standard. A recent ERS study found that on average, ground beef from all groups of producers examined had levels of Salmonella below the limit set by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Researchers also found that AMS standards incentivize producers to supply ground beef to the NSLP that has lower levels of Salmonella contamination (0.7 percent of samples testing positive) than the ground beef the same suppliers sell to commercial buyers (1.6 percent of samples testing positive). Plants supplying ground beef to the NSLP performed better on Salmonella tests than commercial-only and inactive AMS plants. This chart appears in “Strict Standards Nearly Eliminate Salmonella From Ground Beef Supplied to Schools” in the February 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Schools get locally-produced foods from a variety of sources

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

USDA encourages school districts to source locally-produced food through its Farm to School Program established as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Data from USDA’s Farm to School Census, reflecting responses from 9,887 public school districts (75 percent of all U.S. public school districts), reveal that 4,322 districts were serving at least some local foods in school year 2011-2012 or started to in 2012-2013. The top local foods categories were fruits and vegetables, milk, and baked goods. Nearly two-thirds of districts participating in farm to school activities purchased local foods through a distributor. A little over 40 percent of these districts obtained local foods directly from farmers and other producers, while 40 percent sourced local foods from food processors and manufacturers. Some States arrange to have State-produced fruits and vegetables included in the commodities donated by USDA for use in school meals. This chart appears in Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems released January 29, 2015.

Number of Summer Food Service Program sites and participants increased in 2013

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals and snacks to children in low-income areas during the summer months, and during long vacation periods for schools on year-round schedules. USDA reimburses schools, local government agencies, camps, private non-profit organizations, and other sponsors for meals and snacks served to children at eligible sites. The program served 151 million meals and snacks at a cost to USDA of more than $427 million in fiscal 2013. After rising in 2008 and 2009, the number of sites offering summer meals to children remained about the same from 2010 to 2012 but rose from 38,845 in 2012 to 42,654 in 2013. Participation also increased in 2013, with the program serving more than 2.4 million children on an average operating day in July. This chart is from the Child Nutrition Programs: Summer Food Service Program topic page on the ERS website, updated June 23, 2014.

Close to 6 percent of District of Columbia residents participated in USDA's Summer Food Service Program in 2012

Friday, July 11, 2014

When school is not in session, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free meals and snacks to children and teens at approved sites such as schools, churches, parks, community centers, and day camp programs. SFSP meals must meet Federal nutrition guidelines and are served in areas with high concentrations of low-income children. In July 2012, the percent of a State’s total population participating in SFSP ranged from 0.2 percent in Nevada to 1.9 percent in New Mexico and New York. That same year, 5.7 percent of the District of Columbia’s population participated in the program. Demographic factors help explain differences in program participation as a percentage of total population; higher SFSP participation rates could reflect a higher proportion of school-age children relative to total population, or a higher number of low-income children relative to the overall school-age population. Differences in availability and accessibility of SFSP sites also play an important role in the variability across States. This map is from ERS’s Food Environment Atlas.

Difference in availability of USDA school lunches and breakfasts narrows

Monday, June 9, 2014

USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was established in 1946 and has been available in nearly all public schools and many private schools since the 1970s. In fiscal 2013, about 52 million children attended schools where NSLP lunches were offered to students and 59 percent of children enrolled in those schools participated in the program. USDA’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) is a newer program—the SBP was not granted permanent authorization until 1975. As SBP funding increased and grants to schools to help start up the program became more available, the number of schools offering the program steadily grew. By fiscal 2013, 94 percent of the students who had access to the NSLP also had access to the SBP (48 million school children). However, only 27 percent of children enrolled in schools offering the SBP participated in that program in fiscal 2013. This chart appears in ERS’s The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2013 Annual Report.

Nutrition programs projected to account for 80 percent of outlays under the Agricultural Act of 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The new U.S. farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, was signed on February 7, 2014 and will remain in force through 2018. The 2014 Act makes major changes in commodity programs, adds new crop insurance options, streamlines conservation programs, modifies provisions of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and expands programs for specialty crops, organic farmers, bioenergy, rural development, and beginning farmers and ranchers. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that 80 percent of outlays under the 2014 Farm Act will fund nutrition programs, 8 percent will fund crop insurance programs, 6 percent will fund conservation programs, 5 percent will fund commodity programs, and the remaining 1 percent will fund all other programs, including trade, credit, rural development, research and extension, forestry, energy, horticulture, and miscellaneous programs. Find this chart and additional information on the new U.S. farm bill on the Farm Bill Resources pages.

Competitive foods are a larger portion of school foodservice revenues in more affluent districts

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, competitive foods in U.S. schools—foods in cafeteria à la carte lines, vending machines, school stores, and other locations—will be subject to new nutrition standards aimed at creating a healthier nutrition environment. Concerns have been raised that the new standards may reduce revenues from competitive foods and hurt less affluent schools. ERS analysis of the 2002-03 School Food Authority Characteristics Survey found that revenues from competitive foods were highly skewed. School Food Authorities (SFAs), the foodservice management units for school districts, reported obtaining an average of 12 percent of their revenues from competitive foods. While 10 percent of SFAs received 36 percent or more of their revenues from competitive foods, revenue shares were smaller than average for the majority (54 percent) of SFAs. When separated into quartiles based on competitive foods’ share of total revenues, SFAs with higher shares were typically located in more affluent districts and served fewer low-income students receiving free and reduced-price meals than did schools with low competitive food revenues. This chart appears in “Eating Better at School: Can New Policies Improve Children’s Food Choices?” in the September 2013 Amber Waves.

Participation in USDA's Child and Adult Care Food Program shifts to child care centers

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In fiscal 2012, on a typical day, USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provided meals and snacks to more than 3.4 million children at family day care homes and nonprofit child care centers, homeless shelters, and after-school programs. The program also provided subsidized meals for 118,530 older or functionally impaired adults at adult day care centers. The total cost to USDA for CACFP in fiscal 2012 was $2.8 billion—96 percent of which covered children’s meals and snacks. Since 1992, the average number of meals served annually to children in family day care homes and child care centers has risen from 1.2 to 1.9 billion. In 2012, 70 percent of meals were served in centers, reflecting growing numbers of children attending child care centers and fewer family day care homes participating in CACFP. In 1996, reimbursements from USDA to family day care homes shifted from a single rate to a two-tiered system with higher reimbursements for homes serving primarily low-income children. Eligible centers continued to be reimbursed by USDA on a sliding scale based on the child’s family’s income. This chart is from the Child Nutrition Programs: Child and Adult Care Food Program topic page on the ERS website.

Serving school children a healthier mix of vegetables raises vegetable consumption

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

America’s schools are entering their second year of meeting new nutrition standards for USDA school lunches that feature whole grains, low-fat milk, more fruit, and a healthier mix of vegetables. To explore the question of whether children who are offered more fruits and vegetables will actually eat them, ERS researchers used a nationally representative survey of 242 schools in 2005 to match food intake data to that day’s lunch menus. After controlling for a number of student and school foodservice characteristics, serving more fruits and a healthier mix of vegetables did increase students’ vegetable consumption, although average amounts consumed were still small. For example, in schools that offered more total vegetables, students ate 0.38 cups of them at lunch on average versus the 0.30 cups eaten by students in schools that did not meet the total vegetables standard. Available alternatives mattered—students at schools that had no à la carte options, or only healthy à la carte options, had higher intakes of dark green vegetables. This chart appears in “Eating Better at School: Can New Policies Improve Children’s Food Choices?” in the September 2013 Amber Waves.

Number of Summer Food Service Program sites and participants stable since 2010

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals and snacks to children in low-income areas during the summer months (and during other long vacation periods for schools on year-round schedules). USDA reimburses schools, local governmental agencies, camps, private nonprofit organizations, and other sponsors for meals and snacks served to children at eligible sites. The program served 144 million meals and snacks at a cost to USDA of $398 million in fiscal year 2012, primarily during summer vacation. After rising in 2008 and 2009, the number of sites offering summer meals to children has been fairly steady at around 39,000 sites since 2010, and participation has remained at around 2.3 million children. This chart is from the Child Nutrition Programs: Summer Food Service Program topic page on the ERS website, updated July 26, 2013.

During economic downturns, more children receive free and reduced-price school lunches

Thursday, May 30, 2013

USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the Nation’s second largest food and nutrition assistance program. In fiscal year 2012, expenditures totaled $11.6 billion and an average 31.6 million children participated in the program on a typical school day. While total participation is closely linked to school enrollment and does not vary with economic conditions, the share of children receiving free or reduced-price lunches rises during economic downturns. During the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009) and continuing through 2010, the share of NSLP participants receiving free or reduced-price meals grew from 59 to 65 percent. Preliminary data for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 show that this share continued to rise even after the unemployment rate started to decline, suggesting that economic conditions did not improve enough to raise people out of poverty and the need for assistance remained high. This chart appears in the May 2013 Amber Waves article, “Economic Conditions Affect the Share of Children Receiving Free or Reduced-Price School Lunches.”

Participation in USDA's Summer Food Service Program remained high in 2011

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Summer Food Service Program is one of five major domestic food assistance programs administered by USDA that exclusively or primarily serve the nutritional needs of children. The program served 137 million meals and snacks at a cost to USDA of $373 million in fiscal year 2011, primarily during summer vacation. The number of sites offering summer meals to children grew from 38,471 in 2010 to 39,063 in 2011, while participation remained steady at 2.3 million children after rising in each of the last four years. This chart is from the Child Nutrition Programs: Summer Food Service Program topic page on the ERS website, updated July 11, 2012.

After-school snack component of USDA's National School Lunch Program is growing

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In fiscal year 2010, 219 million after-school snacks were served to children through USDA's National School Lunch Program (NSLP), up from 139 million in 2003. Schools that participate in the NSLP can choose to offer nutritious snacks as part of after-school care programs that provide educational or enrichment activities. Over 90 percent of the 2010 snacks were served in schools with high percentages of low-income students. Snacks provided to students who qualify for free school meals receive a 76-cent subsidy for the 2011-12 school year, versus subsidies of 38 cents and 7 cents, respectively, for snacks provided to students qualifying for reduced-price and full-price school meals. Schools in which at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals are "area eligible" and receive the 76-cent subsidy for all participating students. This chart appeared in "Feeding Children After School: The Expanding Role of USDA Child Nutrition Programs" in the March 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

Participation in USDA's School Breakfast Program up in 2010

Friday, December 23, 2011

In fiscal year 2010, 11.6 million students participated in USDA's School Breakfast Program, up 5 percent from fiscal year 2009. The program subsidizes breakfasts in participating schools, which must offer nutritious meals to any student at full price, and for free or at reduced prices to income-eligible students. Participation trends in the School Breakfast Program over the last few years echo those of USDA's National School Lunch Program. The number of children receiving full price breakfasts has fallen, while the number of children getting free breakfasts has increased. Of the 1.9 billion breakfasts served in fiscal year 2010, 75 percent were free and another 9 percent were provided at a reduced price. This chart appearred on the Child Nutrition Programs: School Breakfast Program topic on the ERS website.

Growth in farm to school programs

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Farm to school programs have grown rapidly over the last decade. The National Farm to School Network, a collaboration of groups supporting farm to school programs, estimated that there were 2,051 farm to school programs in the United States in 2009; twice as many as in 2005-06. As of August 2009, they estimated that 41 States had some kind of farm to school program, and 8,943 schools in 2,065 districts participated. This chart was originally published in Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impact, and Issues, ERR-97, May 2010.

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