Children and adolescents living in rural communities are at increased risk of obesity and food insecurity. Schools can play an essential role in addressing diet-related disparities, but multiple factors can impact the cafeteria environment and student participation in school meal programs. School nutrition professionals face unique challenges in meal operations. To develop solutions to these challenges, the aims of this research review are to: 1) Summarize the differences in school meal operational characteristics among rural, suburban, and urban school districts; 2) Discuss the specific challenges that impact the operation of rural school meal programs; and 3) Articulate opportunities for innovation in school meal programs in rural areas.
This one-page summary of the research review offers an overview of school meal operational differences, challenges that impact rural school meal programs, and opportunities for innovation.