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  • USDA’s National School Lunch Program Reduces Food Insecurity

    Amber Waves, August 07, 2017

    In 2014 and 2015, 84 percent of low-income food-insecure households with school-age children received free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program.

  • Children’s Food Security and USDA Child Nutrition Programs

    EIB-174, June 20, 2017

    USDA child nutrition programs reduce food insecurity in households with children and contribute to diet quality and academic performance. One in 6 households with children was food insecure in 2015.

  • School Districts in the Northeast Are Most Likely To Serve Local Foods on a Daily Basis

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2017

    About 19 percent of U.S. school districts reported serving at least one local food item daily in the 2011-12 school year. School districts in the Northeast, in cities, and with enrollments of 5,000 students or more were more likely to serve local foods every day.

  • Daily Access to Local Foods for School Meals: Key Drivers

    EIB-168, March 23, 2017

    School districts with enrollment above 5,000, in urban areas, and in counties with more farmers’ markets were more likely to serve local foods daily, as were districts with higher per capita income and State farm-to-school policies.

  • A Look at What’s Driving Lower Purchases of School Lunches

    Amber Waves, October 05, 2015

    In recent years, the share of children paying full price for their school lunches has fallen from 40 percent in fiscal 2008 to 28 percent in fiscal 2014, continuing a longer downward trend. A combination of reasons—both economic factors and policy changes—are affecting participation decisions in the Nation’s school lunch rooms.

  • School Meals in Transition

    EIB-143, August 20, 2015

    School meal programs are adjusting to stronger nutritional standards, but face challenges in maintaining paid lunch participation to meet revenue goals and to help avoid stigma toward children receiving free or reduced-price food.

  • Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods

    Amber Waves, March 02, 2015

    USDA’s Farm to School Census, covering school years 2011-12 and 2012-13, found 36 percent of responding school districts served locally produced food in school meals and an additional 9 percent planned to serve local foods in the future.

  • Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress

    AP-068, January 29, 2015

    ERS details current economic information on local food producers, consumers, and policies, based on findings from several national surveys and a synthesis of recent literature.

  • Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods in Schools: Implications for Foodservice Revenues

    EIB-114, June 26, 2013

    Over half of secondary school students consume competitive foods on a typical day; most choices would not meet nutrition standards. Foodservices in affluent districts obtain more revenue from competitive foods.

  • School Foodservice Costs: Location Matters

    ERR-117, May 03, 2011

    Over 42 million meals-31.2 million lunches and 11 million breakfasts-were served on a typical school day in fiscal year 2009 to children through USDA's National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. School food authorities (SFAs) operate local school feeding programs and deliver the meals to the schools. SFAs must serve appealing, healthful meals while covering food, labor, and other operating costs, a challenge that may be more difficult for some SFAs than for others due to differences in costs per meal across locations. Analysis of data on school costs per meal from a large, nationally representative sample reveals that geographic variation is important. In the 2002-03 school year, SFAs in the Southwestern United States had, on average, consistently lower foodservice costs per meal than did SFAs in other regions. Urban locations had lower costs per meal than did their rural and suburban counterparts. Wage and benefit rates, food expenditures per meal, and SFA characteristics such as the mix of breakfasts and lunches served each contributed to the differences in foodservice costs per meal across locations. The importance of these factors varied by location.

  • Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues

    ERR-97, May 17, 2010

    A series of coordinated case studies compares the structure, size, and performance of local food supply chains with those of mainstream supply chains in delivering locally produced food to consumers.

  • Meeting Total Fat Requirements for School Lunches: Influence of School Policies and Characteristics

    ERR-87, December 02, 2009

    Concerns about child obesity have raised questions about the quality of meals served in the National School Lunch Program. Local, State, and Federal policymakers responded to these concerns beginning in the mid-1990s by instituting a range of policies and standards to improve the quality of U.S. Department of Agriculture-subsidized meals. Schools have been successful in meeting USDA nutrient standards except those for total fat and saturated fat. This report uses school-level data from the School Nutrition Dietary Assessment-III to calculate statistical differences between the fat content of NSLP lunches served by schools with different policies (e.g., menu planning) and characteristics like region and size. Positive associations are found between a meal's fat content and the presence of a la carte foods and vending machines, which are thought to indirectly affect the nutrient content of USDA-subsidized meals.

  • Balancing Nutrition, Participation, and Cost in the National School Lunch Program

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2008

    Recent reports of high rates of obesity and overweight among children have focused attention on the nutritional quality of school lunches. But this attention has raised another fundamental question: can schools meet the program’s nutrition goals while covering costs, especially in times of rising food prices? The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides federally-subsidized meals to more than 30 million children each school day. School foodservice managers say that to appeal to students and raise revenues, they need to offer less nutritious a la carte foods and vending snacks.

  • The National School Lunch Program Background, Trends, and Issues

    ERR-61, July 18, 2008

    The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the Nation's second largest food and nutrition assistance program. In 2006, it operated in over 101,000 public and nonprofit private schools and provided over 28 million low-cost or free lunches to children on a typical school day at a Federal cost of $8 billion for the year. This report provides background information on the NSLP, including historical trends and participant characteristics. It also addresses steps being taken to meet challenges facing administrators of the program, including tradeoffs between nutritional quality of foods served, costs, and participation, as well as between program access and program integrity.

  • Food Stamps and Obesity: What We Know and What It Means

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2008

    Food stamp benefits do not increase obesity for most program participants, but there is a potential link for some subgroups.

  • Food Stamps and Obesity: What Do We Know?

    EIB-34, March 21, 2008

    Results from reviewed studies indicate that for most Food Stamp Program participants, use of food stamp benefits does not result in an increase in Body Mass Index or the likelihood of being overweight or obese.

  • National School Lunch Program Fills Food Assistance Gaps

    Amber Waves, May 01, 2007

    Participation in the National School Lunch Program is lower among high school students than among children ages 8-13. Greater use of electronic payment methods to prevent free meal recipients from being identified by their peers, along with changes in menus and improved cooking techniques, has increased participation.

  • National School Lunch Program Fills Food Assistance Gaps

    Amber Waves, February 01, 2007

    Participation in the National School Lunch Program is lower among high school students than among children ages 8-13. Greater use of electronic payment methods to prevent free meal recipients from being identified by their peers, along with changes in menus and improved cooking techniques, has increased participation.

  • Profiles of Participants in the National School Lunch Program: Data From Two National Surveys

    EIB-17, August 25, 2006

    The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) serves more than 29 million children each day, but there is little information on the characteristics of those children. This study reports new estimates of NSLP participant characteristics using two national surveys: the 2001 Panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Study results also show that these two surveys are suitable sources of data on NSLP participants since they are consistent with more aggregated administrative data of the Food and Nutrition Service. The surveys supplement periodic characteristics data available from the School Nutrition and Dietary Assessment (SNDA) surveys.

  • Children's Diets and WIC

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2006

    An ERS study found that children who participate in WIC drank more WIC-approved juice and ate more WIC-approved cereal than did eligible nonparticipating children and children from higher income families. Other studies found that while protein, calcium, and vitamins A and C are no longer lacking in the diets of preschool children, some preschoolers are consuming too many calories and not enough vitamin E and fiber.