Special Issue "The School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study-I: Findings Related to Improving Diet Quality, Weight, and Disparities in US Children"

A special issue of Nutrients (ISSN 2072-6643). This special issue belongs to the section "Nutrition and Public Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 December 2020) | Viewed by 39260

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Mary T. Story
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, School of Medicine and the Global Health Institute, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA
Interests: child nutrition; policy, systems and environmental changes; diet-related disparities; obesity prevention

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study-I (SNMCS-I) is the most comprehensive school nutrition study in the US. It is a nationally representative sample of 502 school food authorities (SFAs), 1200 schools, 2400 students, and school meals (5404 lunches and 3360 breakfasts). The data collection (2014–2015 school year) includes detailed assessments of school meals and snacks (what was offered and the nutrient composition), the school food environment, measured plate waste, meal costs,  a 24-hour student dietary recall, and the measurement of students’ height and weight. The study was conducted by Mathematica and funded by the US Department of Agriculture.

This Special Issue will provide a general overview of the study design and data collection and analysis methods and several papers related to school meals and school food environments and assessing if disparities exist (e.g., urban/rural, lower- vs. higher-resource schools) and associations related to weight status, food insecurity, and implications for promising strategies related to improving diet quality and reducing obesity disparities.

Prof. Mary T. Story
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • School nutrition
  • Diet quality of school meals
  • Body mass index
  • School meals and snacks

Published Papers (16 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
The School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study-I: Overview of Findings Related to Improving Diet Quality, Weight, and Disparities in US Children and Policy Implications
Nutrients 2021, 13(4), 1357; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13041357 - 19 Apr 2021
Viewed by 1093
Abstract
The national school breakfast and lunch programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are a cornerstone of the nation’s nutrition safety net for children from low-income families [...] Full article

Research

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Article
Universal Free Meals Associated with Lower Meal Costs While Maintaining Nutritional Quality
Nutrients 2021, 13(2), 670; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020670 - 19 Feb 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3436
Abstract
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 allows the provision of universal free meals (UFMs) in high-poverty school areas. Participation in UFM programs, including through CEP, could reduce meal costs due to economies of scale and a [...] Read more.
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 allows the provision of universal free meals (UFMs) in high-poverty school areas. Participation in UFM programs, including through CEP, could reduce meal costs due to economies of scale and a lower administrative burden. We analyzed the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study (SNMCS) data from 508 UFM-eligible schools (103 UFMs) to evaluate whether meal costs varied by UFM status. We used school-level data to address the non-random selection to UFMs with inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW). We estimated a generalized linear model with a log link and gamma distribution to predict meal costs by UFM status and school size. Full costs among medium and large schools were marginally lower in UFM schools for lunch (−$0.673; 95% CI: −1.395, 0.0499; p = 0.068) and significantly lower for breakfast (−$0.575; 95% CI: −1.077, −0.074; p = 0.025). UFM was not associated with meal costs among smaller schools. Healthy Eating Index scores did not vary significantly by UFMs, suggesting that lower costs could be achieved without an adverse effect on nutritional quality. This analysis is limited by the lack of identified student percentage (ISP) data needed to definitively identify CEP eligibility, although results were robust to sensitivity analyses addressing the lack of ISP data. The potential policy impact of these findings emphasizes the need for future studies that assess ISP and cost with more recent data and longitudinal designs. Full article
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Article
Added Sugars in School Meals and the Diets of School-Age Children
Nutrients 2021, 13(2), 471; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020471 - 30 Jan 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3564
Abstract
Research is limited on added sugars in school meals and children’s dietary intakes after the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommended that added sugars be limited to less than 10% of total calories. This analysis uses data from the School Nutrition and [...] Read more.
Research is limited on added sugars in school meals and children’s dietary intakes after the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommended that added sugars be limited to less than 10% of total calories. This analysis uses data from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study (SNMCS) to examine levels of added sugars in: (1) school meals and (2) children’s dietary intakes at breakfast, lunch, and over 24 h on school days. SNMCS data were collected in the 2014–2015 school year after updated nutrition standards for school meals were implemented. Most schools exceeded the DGA limit for added sugars at breakfast (92%), while 69% exceeded the limit at lunch. The leading source of added sugars in school meals (both breakfasts and lunches) was flavored skim milk. More than 62% of children consumed breakfasts that exceeded the DGA limit, and almost half (47%) consumed lunches that exceeded the limit. Leading sources of added sugars in the breakfasts consumed by children were sweetened cold cereals and condiments and toppings; leading sources of added sugars in children’s lunches were flavored skim milk and cake. Over 24 h, 63% of children exceeded the DGA limit. These findings show that school meals and children’s dietary intakes are high in added sugars relative to the DGA limit and provide insights into the types of foods that should be targeted in order to decrease levels of added sugars. Full article
Article
Associations among Food Security, School Meal Participation, and Students’ Diet Quality in the First School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study
Nutrients 2021, 13(2), 307; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020307 - 22 Jan 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 2045
Abstract
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 updated the nutrition standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs (NSLP and SBP) and expanded universal free meals’ availability in low-income schools. Past studies have shown that school meals are an important resource [...] Read more.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 updated the nutrition standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs (NSLP and SBP) and expanded universal free meals’ availability in low-income schools. Past studies have shown that school meals are an important resource for children in food-insecure households. This analysis used data from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study to classify students as food insecure (FI), marginally secure (MS), or food secure (FS). Diet quality from school and nonschool foods that students consumed was assessed using Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2010 scores. Chi-squared and two-tailed t-tests were conducted to compare school meal participation, students’ energy intakes, and diet quality across food security groups. FI and MS students were significantly more likely to participate in NSLP than FS students (79%, 71%, and 49%, respectively). SBP participation followed a similar pattern but was lower (38% FI, 33% MS, and 16% FS). Compared to FS students, FI and MS students more likely attended schools offering SBP, universal free meals, or afterschool snacks and suppers. School meals contributed significantly more energy to FI and MS students’ diets than to FS students (22%, 20%, and 13%, respectively). All groups’ dietary intakes from school foods were of higher quality than non-school foods. These findings highlight the role of school meals in meeting the energy and diet quality needs of FI and MS students. Full article
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Article
Can Monitoring Make It Happen? An Assessment of How Reporting, Monitoring, and Evaluation Can Support Local Wellness Policy Implementation in US Schools
Nutrients 2021, 13(1), 193; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13010193 - 09 Jan 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1319
Abstract
US school districts participating in federal child nutrition programs are required to develop a local wellness policy (LWP). Each district is allowed flexibility in policy development, including the approaches used for policy reporting, monitoring, and evaluation (RME). The aim of this convergent mixed-methods [...] Read more.
US school districts participating in federal child nutrition programs are required to develop a local wellness policy (LWP). Each district is allowed flexibility in policy development, including the approaches used for policy reporting, monitoring, and evaluation (RME). The aim of this convergent mixed-methods study was to quantitatively examine RME provisions in policies among a nationally representative sample of districts in the 2014–2015 school year in order to examine whether policies were associated with RME practices in those districts, and to qualitatively examine perceived challenges to RME practices. Data were compiled through the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study and the National Wellness Policy Study. In multivariable regression models accounting for demographics, survey respondents were significantly more likely to report that their district had informed the public about LWP content and implementation, if there was a relevant policy provision in place. Having a strong policy (as compared to no policy) requiring evaluation was associated with reports that the district had indeed evaluated implementation. Having definitive/required provisions in policies was significantly associated with actual use of RME practices. RME activities are an important part of policy implementation, and these results show that policy provisions addressing RME activities must be written with strong language to require compliance. In interviews with 39 superintendents, many reported that RME activities are challenging, including difficulty determining how to monitor and show impact of their district’s wellness initiatives. Furthermore, the qualitative results highlighted the need for vetted tools that are freely available, widely used, and feasible for districts to use in assessing their progress toward meeting the goals in their LWPs. Full article
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Article
State Wellness Policy Requirement Laws Matter for District Wellness Policy Comprehensiveness and Wellness Policy Implementation in the United States
Nutrients 2021, 13(1), 188; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13010188 - 09 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1255
Abstract
Beginning with the school year 2006–2007, U.S. school districts participating in the federal Child Nutrition Programs were required to adopt and implement a local wellness policy (LWP) that included goals and/or standards for nutrition education, school meals, other foods sold or served in [...] Read more.
Beginning with the school year 2006–2007, U.S. school districts participating in the federal Child Nutrition Programs were required to adopt and implement a local wellness policy (LWP) that included goals and/or standards for nutrition education, school meals, other foods sold or served in schools, and physical activity. A primary challenge with LWPs has been inconsistent implementation. This study examined whether state wellness policy requirement laws and district LWP comprehensiveness influence district level implementation, using law/policy data from the National Wellness Policy Study and school food authority (SFA)-reported district LWP implementation from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study. Generalized linear and structural equation models were used, controlling for SFA and district characteristics. SFAs in states with wellness policy requirement laws (vs. those in states without) reported implementing significantly more practices (59.56% vs. 44.57%, p < 0.01). State wellness policy requirement laws were associated with district LWP comprehensiveness (coeff.: 0.463; 95% CI: 0.123, 0.803) and district-level implementation (coeff.: 1.392; 95% CI: 0.299, 2.485). District LWP comprehensiveness was associated with district implementation (coeff.: 0.562; 95% CI: 0.072, 1.053), but did not mediate the state law–district implementation relationship. This study highlights the important role that state laws and district LWPs can play in facilitating wellness policy implementation. Full article
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Article
Are Nutrition Standards for Beverages in Schools Associated with Healthier Beverage Intakes among Adolescents in the US?
Nutrients 2021, 13(1), 75; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13010075 - 29 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1455
Abstract
Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in School standards, beverages sold in schools are restricted to water, flavored or unflavored non-fat milk or unflavored low-fat milk (and milk alternatives), and 100% fruit and vegetable juices; and, at the high school level, [...] Read more.
Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in School standards, beverages sold in schools are restricted to water, flavored or unflavored non-fat milk or unflavored low-fat milk (and milk alternatives), and 100% fruit and vegetable juices; and, at the high school level, diet (≤10 kcal), low-calorie (≤60 kcal), and caffeinated beverages may also be sold. Using data from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study, this study examined whether secondary school student beverage consumption was associated with school-level à la carte and vending machine beverage availability, controlling for district, school, and student characteristics. On average, most beverages sold in middle schools (84.54%) and high schools (74.11%) were Smart Snacks compliant; while 24.06 percent of middle school students and 14.64 percent of high school students reported consuming non-compliant beverages, including non-compliant milk, fruit drinks, and sports or energy drinks. School beverage availability was not related to consumption among middle school students; however, high school students were less likely to consume non-compliant beverages when enrolled in schools that sold a higher proportion of compliant beverages (Range: OR = 0.97–0.98, 95% CI = 0.95, 1.00). Findings from this study build upon prior research illustrating the role that schools can play in influencing student dietary intake. Full article
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Article
Analyzing the Association between Student Weight Status and School Meal Participation: Evidence from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study
Nutrients 2021, 13(1), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13010017 - 23 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1524
Abstract
Childhood obesity remains a pressing public health concern. Children consume a substantial amount of their caloric intake while in school, making the passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) in 2010 and the subsequent improvements to the school meal standards a key [...] Read more.
Childhood obesity remains a pressing public health concern. Children consume a substantial amount of their caloric intake while in school, making the passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) in 2010 and the subsequent improvements to the school meal standards a key policy change. Using data from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study, this paper seeks to re-examine the association between students’ (N = 1963) weight status and participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) since the implementation of these policy changes to determine whether, and how, this relationship has changed. After controlling for a wide array of student characteristics and school-level fixed effects, findings from the multivariate regression analyses indicate that usual participation in the school meal programs has no clear association with students’ weight status, which contradicts findings from earlier studies conducted prior to the passage of the HHFKA. These findings are discussed in relation to changes in the demographic composition of usual NSLP participants over time. Full article
Article
Association between Nutrition Policies and Student Body Mass Index
Nutrients 2021, 13(1), 13; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13010013 - 23 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2006
Abstract
In response to concerns about childhood obesity, many US states have implemented policies to limit the sale of unhealthy foods and beverages (e.g., snacks, desserts, and sugary drinks) sold in competition with school meal programs (i.e., competitive foods) in order to improve the [...] Read more.
In response to concerns about childhood obesity, many US states have implemented policies to limit the sale of unhealthy foods and beverages (e.g., snacks, desserts, and sugary drinks) sold in competition with school meal programs (i.e., competitive foods) in order to improve the nutritional environment of schools and support student health. This study measured state-level competitive food and beverage policies that require foods and beverages sold in à la carte lines, vending machines, and school stores to meet strong nutrition standards and tested the hypothesis that students living in states with stronger laws would have lower body mass index (BMI)-for-age percentiles. BMI data from a national sample of 1625 students attending 284 schools from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study were linked to state laws coded as part of the National Wellness Policy Study. A survey-adjusted linear regression model accounting for student and school-level characteristics showed that stronger state nutrition policies were associated with lower student BMI scores (coefficient: −0.06, 95% CI: −0.12, −0.00). Additional models indicated that stronger state policies were significantly associated with fewer unhealthy foods and beverages available in schools. These findings suggest that strong regulations on competitive foods and beverages may lead to improvements in the nutritional quality of the school environment and student BMI. Thus, current federal standards regulating snacks in US schools (i.e., Smart Snacks) are an important element of a comprehensive strategy to improve the school nutrition environment and reduce rates of childhood obesity. Full article
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Article
Differences in Diet Quality between School Lunch Participants and Nonparticipants in the United States by Income and Race
Nutrients 2020, 12(12), 3891; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12123891 - 19 Dec 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1991
Abstract
Prior research has shown that participation in the United States’ National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is associated with consuming higher-quality lunches and diets overall, but little is known about differences by income and race/ethnicity. This analysis used 24 h dietary recall data from [...] Read more.
Prior research has shown that participation in the United States’ National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is associated with consuming higher-quality lunches and diets overall, but little is known about differences by income and race/ethnicity. This analysis used 24 h dietary recall data from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study to examine how NSLP participation affects the diet quality of students in different income and racial/ethnic subgroups. Diet quality at lunch and over 24 h was assessed using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2010, where higher scores indicate higher-quality intakes. HEI-2010 scores for NSLP participants and nonparticipants in each subgroup were estimated, and two-tailed t-tests were conducted to determine whether participant–nonparticipant differences in scores within each subgroup were statistically significant. NSLP participants’ lunches received significantly higher total HEI-2010 scores than those of nonparticipants for lower-income, higher-income, non-Hispanic White, and non-Hispanic Black students, suggesting that participating in the NSLP helps most students consume healthier lunches. These significantly higher total scores for participants’ lunch intakes persisted over 24 h for higher-income students and non-Hispanic White students but not for lower-income students or students of other races/ethnicities. For NSLP participants in all subgroups, the nutritional quality of their 24 h intakes was much lower than at lunch, suggesting that the positive influence of the NSLP on their overall diet quality was negatively influenced by foods consumed the rest of the day (outside of lunch). Full article
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Article
District Wellness Policy Nutrition Standards Are Associated with Healthier District Food Procurement Practices in the United States
Nutrients 2020, 12(11), 3417; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12113417 - 07 Nov 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1156
Abstract
Food procurement policies often exist to require that schools purchase foods with specific nutrient standards. Such policies are increasingly being used with the hope of improving access to healthier foods and beverages. Local wellness policies, required in any school district that participates in [...] Read more.
Food procurement policies often exist to require that schools purchase foods with specific nutrient standards. Such policies are increasingly being used with the hope of improving access to healthier foods and beverages. Local wellness policies, required in any school district that participates in Federal Child Nutrition Programs, often contain specific nutrition standards that detail what can be sold to students during the school day. This study investigated the extent to which nutrition standards in wellness policies may be associated with healthier nutrition standards in district-level purchasing specifications. Cross-sectional data from the 2014–2015 school year for 490 school food authorities from 46 states and the District of Columbia were collected as part of the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study and the National Wellness Policy Study. Survey-adjusted multivariable logistic regression models were computed to examine the association between district wellness policy nutrition standards and corresponding district food purchasing specifications. Results show that having a district wellness policy with corresponding nutrition standards and being in a rural area were associated with district food purchasing specifications for specific nutrients. These findings contribute to the literature to suggest that having a wellness policy with detailed nutrition standards may help to increase access to healthier foods and beverages. Full article
Article
Meal Quality of Entrées That Can Be Sold as Competitive Foods in Schools and Potential Impact of the Proposed USDA Rollbacks
Nutrients 2020, 12(10), 3003; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12103003 - 30 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1289
Abstract
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act strengthened competitive food standards (i.e., Smart Snacks), but an exemption allows reimbursable meal entrées that do not meet Smart Snack standards to be sold as “competitive entrées” on the same day they are served in the reimbursable meal, [...] Read more.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act strengthened competitive food standards (i.e., Smart Snacks), but an exemption allows reimbursable meal entrées that do not meet Smart Snack standards to be sold as “competitive entrées” on the same day they are served in the reimbursable meal, and the following day. Proposed rollbacks would enable these competitive entrées to continue to be sold on a third day, increasing the availability of competitive foods exempt from Smart Snacks standards. This study compared the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores of potential competitive entrées alone versus full reimbursable school lunches, and examined the nutritional characteristics of potential competitive entrées. Data were from a national sample of 1108 schools from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study. Linear regression models, accounting for school-level and state and district policy characteristics, found that HEI scores of competitive entrées were an average of 30 points lower than HEI scores of reimbursable lunches, with greater differences in small and rural schools. Less than 1% of common potential competitive entrees met Smart Snack standards, primarily due to higher sodium and saturated fat levels. The proposed rollbacks are estimated to potentially add approximately 662 mg of sodium and 3 g of saturated fat over three days (1103 mg sodium and 5 g saturated fat over a week) on average relative to Smart Snacks limits. Instead of increasing opportunities to sell competitive entrées, their sales should be further limited. Full article
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Article
Disparities in the Healthfulness of School Food Environments and the Nutritional Quality of School Lunches
Nutrients 2020, 12(8), 2375; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082375 - 08 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2647
Abstract
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), a public law in the United States passed in 2010, sought to improve the healthfulness of the school food environment by requiring updated nutrition standards for school meals and competitive foods. Studies conducted since the passage of [...] Read more.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), a public law in the United States passed in 2010, sought to improve the healthfulness of the school food environment by requiring updated nutrition standards for school meals and competitive foods. Studies conducted since the passage of the HHFKA indicate improvements in the food environment overall, but few studies have examined whether these improvements varied by the socioeconomic and racial/ethnic composition of students in schools. To better understand the extent of disparities in the school food environment after HHFKA, this paper examined differences in the healthfulness of school food environments and the nutritional quality of school lunches by the school poverty level and racial/ethnic composition of students using data from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study. Results from chi-square analyses showed lower proportions of high poverty, majority black, and majority Hispanic schools had access to competitive foods, while higher proportions of these schools had a school wellness policy in addition to a district wellness policy. The overall nutritional quality of school lunches, as measured by total Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2010 scores, did not vary significantly across school types, although some HEI component scores did. From these findings, we concluded that there were disparities in the school food environment based on the socioeconomic and racial/ethnic composition of students in schools, but no significant disparities in the overall nutritional quality of school lunches were found. Full article
Article
Assessing the Relationship between District and State Policies and School Nutrition Promotion-Related Practices in the United States
Nutrients 2020, 12(8), 2356; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082356 - 07 Aug 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1812
Abstract
School environments are an optimal setting to promote healthy student diets, yet it is unclear what role state and district policies play in shaping school contexts. This study examined how state and district policies are associated with school-reported practices for promoting student participation [...] Read more.
School environments are an optimal setting to promote healthy student diets, yet it is unclear what role state and district policies play in shaping school contexts. This study examined how state and district policies are associated with school-reported practices for promoting student participation in school lunch programs. School nutrition manager data were obtained from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study’s (SNMCS) sample of 1210 schools in 46 states and the District of Columbia (DC) during school year 2014–2015. Relevant state laws and district policies were compiled and coded. Multivariable logistic and Poisson regressions, controlling for school characteristics, examined the relationship between state/district laws/policies and school practices. Compared to schools in districts or states with no policies/laws, respectively, schools were more likely to provide nutritional information on school meals (AOR = 2.59, 95% CI = 1.33, 5.05) in districts with strong policies, and to promote school meals at school events (AOR = 1.93, CI = 1.07, 3.46) in states with strong laws. Schools in states with any laws related to strategies to increase participation in school meals were more likely to seek student involvement in menu planning (AOR = 2.02, CI = 1.24, 3.31) and vegetable offerings (AOR = 2.00, CI = 1.23, 3.24). The findings support the association of laws/policies with school practices. Full article
Article
The Role of District Wellness Policies in Encouraging Student Participation in the School Breakfast Program, United States
Nutrients 2020, 12(8), 2187; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082187 - 23 Jul 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1239
Abstract
Eating breakfast is associated with better academic performance and nutrition and lower risk of obesity, but skipping breakfast is common among children and adolescents, and participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) is low. This study assessed the association [...] Read more.
Eating breakfast is associated with better academic performance and nutrition and lower risk of obesity, but skipping breakfast is common among children and adolescents, and participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) is low. This study assessed the association between school district wellness policy provisions coded as part of the National Wellness Policy Study and student SBP participation and acceptance of the breakfasts provided using cross-sectional survey data from the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study. Separate survey-adjusted multivariable logistic regressions were computed, linking students eating (N = 1575) and liking (N = 726) the school breakfast to corresponding district policy measures, controlling for school and student characteristics. Strong district policy, as opposed to no policy, was associated with significantly higher odds of students eating the school breakfast (odds ratio (OR): 1.86; 95% CI: 1.09, 3.16; p = 0.022), corresponding to an adjusted prevalence of 28.4% versus 19.2%, and liking the school breakfast (OR: 2.14; 95% CI: 1.26, 3.63; p = 0.005), corresponding to an adjusted prevalence of 69.0% versus 53.9%. District policy has the potential to play an important role in encouraging higher levels of SBP participation. Full article
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Other

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Systematic Review
Universal School Meals and Associations with Student Participation, Attendance, Academic Performance, Diet Quality, Food Security, and Body Mass Index: A Systematic Review
Nutrients 2021, 13(3), 911; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13030911 - 11 Mar 2021
Cited by 38 | Viewed by 8312
Abstract
The school environment plays an important role in children’s diets and overall health, and policies for universal free school meals have the potential to contribute to positive child health outcomes. This systematic review evaluates studies examining the association between universal free school meals [...] Read more.
The school environment plays an important role in children’s diets and overall health, and policies for universal free school meals have the potential to contribute to positive child health outcomes. This systematic review evaluates studies examining the association between universal free school meals and students’ school meal participation rates, diets, attendance, academic performance, and Body Mass Index (BMI), as well as school finances. The search was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). A search for studies published in economically developed countries published through December 2020 was performed in PubMed, Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science, and Academic Search Ultimate, followed by examining the references in the resultant literature. A total of 47 studies were identified and the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS) was applied to assess bias. Nearly all studies examining universal free school meals found positive associations with school meal participation. Most studies examining universal free school meals that included free lunch found positive associations with diet quality, food security, and academic performance; however, the findings of studies examining only universal free breakfast were mixed. Research findings were similarly mixed when examining attendance as an outcome. Concerns about adverse outcomes on student BMI were not supported by the literature; in fact, several studies detected a potentially protective effect of universal free school meals on BMI. Research examining the impact of universal free meals on school finances was limited, but suggest that lower-income school districts in the U.S. may have positive financial outcomes from participation in universal free school meal provisions. Additionally, providing free meals to students may be associated with improved household incomes, particularly among lower-income families with children. Further research is needed to examine the financial implications of universal free meals for both school districts and families. Overall, universal free school meals may have multiple benefits for students and countries should consider universal free school meal provisions with strong nutrition guidelines. (PROSPERO registration: CRD42020221782). Full article
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