Schools are an important setting for addressing childhood obesity. A substantial portion of school-aged children’s daily food and caloric intake occurs within the school and after-school environment. About 30 million school-aged children consume school lunches every day, and almost 75% (21.8 million) of these children receive free or reduced-price lunches. Research in this area aims to understand how school and after-school food policies and environments can help improve the nutritional quality of the school meal environment, promote healthy weight status, and reduce nutritional disparities.

Research & Publications See all

October 2021

Strategies to Improve School Meal Consumption: A Systematic Review

This systematic review evaluates studies examining initiatives, interventions, and policies to increase school meal consumption. Following PRISMA guidelines, this review was conducted using four databases and resulted in a total of 96 studies. The research evidence supports the following strategies to increase school meal consumption: (1) offering students more menu choices; (2) adapting recipes to More

August 2021

Prevalence of Evidence-Based School Meal Practices and Associations with Reported Food Waste across a National Sample of U.S. Elementary Schools

Providing meals at school is an important part of the hunger safety net for children in the United States and worldwide; however, many children do not receive school meals even when they qualify for federally-subsidized free or reduced-priced meals. This study investigates the prevalence of several evidence-based practices that have previously been shown to increase More

August 2021

Feeding Children and Maintaining Food Service Operations during COVID-19: A Mixed Methods Investigation of Implementation and Financial Challenges

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs are critical for the health and food security of U.S. schoolchildren, but access to these programs was disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic-related school closures in spring 2020. While temporary policy changes to the programs enabled school food authorities (SFAs) to pivot towards distributing More

July 2021

Improving Access to Free School Meals: Addressing Intersections Between Universal Free School Meal Approaches and Educational Funding

Free and reduced price meal application data are used to allocate billions of dollars annually in education funding. However, schools serving universal free meals under the Community Eligibility Provision meal service option or USDA’s COVID-19 waivers do not typically collect school meal applications. The loss of this data has caused confusion among school administrators about More