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
Assessing Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program families' online food purchasing behaviors to inform policies targeting expansion of SNAP benefits
Online grocery services may be a promising strategy to increase food access by creating systems that increase the self-reliance of communities to meet their food needs; however, there may be unintended consequences that should be considered. Despite the potential to increase healthier choices, individuals may purchase more soft drinks and … More
Studying facilitators and barriers in coupon redemption for fruits and vegetables by Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children participants
The Special Supplemental Nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federally-funded nutrition assistance program supporting low-income women, infants, and children. The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) provides WIC clients with coupons to purchase fruits and vegetables from approved farmers markets in addition to their regular WIC benefits. … More