Few studies examine why rural public schools have weaker policies and practices related to school nutrition environments compared to their urban counterparts. It is important to understand this disparity because federal school meal standards aim for children to access health‐promoting nutrition environments. In this study, we identify challenges and opportunities for the implementation of school meal standards in rural high schools. We interviewed 38 rural school professionals from 22 high schools across 7 states. School professionals included food service directors, principals, school nurses, and teachers. Overall, school professionals described improvements with implementation experiences and student acceptance over time. Key challenges included the negative influences of home and community food environments and limited staff size and capacity. Key opportunities involved joining co‐ops to enhance purchasing power, leveraging state technical assistance, and forming external partnerships. This study offers insights from a broad range of rural school professionals’ implementation experiences. The findings can inform governments and technical assistance agencies working with rural schools and school districts to facilitate implementation and sustainability of initiatives.
Addressing Equity in Rural Schools: Opportunities and Challenges for School Meal Standards Implementation
Informing Rural Schools’ Efforts to Sustainably Implement Revised Federal Standards for School Meals and Snacks
Recent federal policies for revised school meals and Smart Snacks standards aimed for all children to have equitable access to health-promoting food environments. However, studies indicate that rural school, particularly at the secondary level, are lagging behind urban schools in the quality of policies and practices. The aims of this … More
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 … More
Schools play a vital role in promoting children’s health and well-being. In the United States, schools contribute significantly to children’s overall diet quality and can provide up to half of their daily calories, especially among children from low-income families. Providing healthy school meals for all is a policy opportunity to … More