The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), which took effect at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, updated the meal patterns and nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) to align with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This study assessed changes in energy and nutrient density of 1.7 million school meals and meal participation rates before and after implementation of the HHFKA. Researchers analyzed foods selected by 7,200 middle and high school students in a diverse urban school district in Washington state from January 2011 to January 2014, which spans 16 months before and 15 months after implementation of the updated standards. The nutritional quality of the foods students chose was calculated by assessing the amount of calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, fiber, and protein in each item; and the calorie content of the foods served was assessed by calculating the energy density (amount of calories per gram) of each food item. Researchers found that the nutritional quality of meals selected by students significantly improved following the new meal standards, and the new standards had no effect on school lunch participation.
Effect of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act on the Nutritional Quality of Meals Selected by Students and School Lunch Participation Rates
The quality and impact of school meal programs could be improved by menu labeling policies, but there is little research about nutrition labeling in schools. This project will utilize existing data as well as ongoing data collection to study the nutritional quality of foods selected by students in a diverse … More
Strong nutrition standards for school meals, consistent with evidence-based recommendations, position children for optimal health and wellbeing. Strong science supports the link between lowering sodium intake and better health. This new issue brief from Healthy Eating Research examines the recent history of sodium standards for school meals. It highlights current sodium intake … More
In the next year, an estimated 1 in 4 children will experience food insecurity (up from 1 in 6, pre-pandemic), disproportionately impacting children in low-income households and racial/ethnic minorities. To mediate loss of school meals during closures and reduce COVID-19 exposure, Congress authorized the USDA to permit local education authorities … More