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
This research brief summarizes findings from an exploratory study of a diverse sample of juvenile justice residential facilities in North Carolina conducted by RTI International. The study examined food service operations, agency and facility level policies and practices pertaining to nutrition, participation in federal school nutrition programs, and additional food … More
Farm-to-School Education Grants Reach Low-Income Children and Encourage Them to Learn About Fruits and Vegetables
For children from low-income families, school meals are a significant portion of daily caloric intake and hence an opportunity to address food insecurity. Many states have pursued legislation to institutionalize programs such as farm to school that aim to improve the quality of school meals and acceptance of healthy foods … More