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

January 2022

Recognizing and Supporting School Meal Programs as a Critical Nutrition Safety Net: Lessons from COVID-19

School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted children’s access to school meals in 2020 and 2021. School food service authorities (SFAs), which are responsible for planning, sourcing, preparing, and serving school meals, had to rapidly convert their usual on-site meal service operations to more flexible and mobile strategies to distribute meals to students More

December 2021

Elementary Schools’ Response to Student Wellness Needs during the COVID-19 Shutdown: A Qualitative Exploration Using the R = MC2 Readiness Heuristic

During spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying public health advisories forced K-12 schools throughout the United States to suspend in-person instruction. School personnel rapidly transitioned to remote provision of academic instruction and wellness services such as school meals and counseling services. The aim of this study was to investigate how schools responded to More

November 2021

Rural Schools: Challenges and Opportunities for School Meal Programs

Children and adolescents living in rural communities are at increased risk of obesity and food insecurity. Schools can play an essential role in addressing diet-related disparities, but multiple factors can impact the cafeteria environment and student participation in school meal programs. School nutrition professionals face unique challenges in meal operations. To develop solutions to these More

October 2021

Promising and Low-Cost Strategies to Improve School Meal Consumption

The aim of this research brief is to highlight and summarize the evidence of promising, low-maintenance, and low-cost strategies that can be implemented by school districts to increase the consumption of healthy school meals. All of these strategies have been associated with meaningful improvements in meal consumption and require minimal funding and technical support, making More