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 school food service personnel and school food service records from a convenience sample of 10 school districts in California. The districts studied employed varying degrees of scratch-cooking and were diverse in terms of geographic location and the sociodemographic characteristics of the student body. All elementary school lunch entrees that included at least one USDA Foods ingredient offered during October 2010 were included in the sample (n=146 distinct entrees). Investigators found that there was no significant relationship between the total costs and level of scratch-cooking. Entrees with the highest level of scratch-cooking had significantly lower food costs and higher labor costs, with no significant difference in total costs compared with entrees with no scratch-cooking.
Is Scratch-Cooking a Cost-Effective Way to Prepare Healthy School Meals with U.S. Department of Agriculture Foods?
Assessing the Effects of the Federal Commodities Program on School Meals for Children in Lower-Income Communities
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 … 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