Economic Research Report No. (ERR-87) 22 pp

December 2009

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

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.

Keywords: National School Lunch Program (NSLP), obesity, nutrition

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Last updated: Wednesday, December 02, 2009

For more information, contact: Constance Newman, Joanne Guthrie, Lisa Mancino, Katherine Ralston, and Melissa Musiker