It is important to examine how the national school meal programs, which feed roughly half the country’s school-age population every school day, can contribute to preventing childhood obesity. Although the USDA’s Child Nutrition Commodity Program offers many nutritious options to school districts, previous research has shown that schools primarily order foods high in fat that fail to meet standards set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In addition, previously unexamined aspects of the commodity program may also affect the nutritional quality and cost of the school meal, such as the practice of diverting food to commercial food processors before delivery to schools. This study will identify policy opportunities to ensure that schools use commodity foods to offer the most nutritious meals at the lowest cost. The study will compare the nutrient profiles of commodity foods processed into heat-and-serve entrees with entrees prepared on site from minimally processed commodities (scratch cooked), identify cost differences between the two methods, and examine differences in the overall nutritional quality of menus served in districts using heat-and-serve versus scratch-cooked entrees. Working with 10 California school districts, the investigators will conduct nutrient analyses, an econometric cost analysis, key informant interviews, and a convening of experts and policy-makers for the presentation of the study’s findings and the development of policy recommendations.
Assessing the Effects of the Federal Commodities Program on School Meals for Children in Lower-Income Communities
Is Scratch-Cooking a Cost-Effective Way to Prepare Healthy School Meals with U.S. Department of Agriculture Foods?
This paper examines whether school lunch entrees made in a district from basic or raw U.S. Department of Agriculture Foods ingredients can be healthier and/or less expensive to prepare than those sent to external processers. Information on the nutritional content and cost to prepare entrees was gathered through interviews with … More
The USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides critical nutrition assistance to lower-income women, infants, and young children. During the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment has risen to levels greater than experienced during the Great Recession, and food insecurity has also increased, making WIC’s role more important … More
Stories of Success: A Qualitative Examination of Contributors to Excellence in School Drinking Water Access
Drinking water instead of beverages with added sugar can help prevent obesity and cavities and promote overall health. Children spend much of their day in school, where they have variable access to drinking water. In 2010, federal and state law required California public schools to provide free potable water to … More