State Monitoring of National School Lunch Program Nutritional Content

by Liisa Hiatt, Jacob Alex Klerman

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As part of the School Meals Initiative (SMI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) now requires each state to regularly review the nutritional content of food served by each School Food Authority (SFA) as part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). While states must monitor the nutritional content of school meals, they are not required to forward any information to USDA-FNS. However, USDA-FNS is required to measure progress to "ensure that school meals are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) and the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA)." To measure progress, USDA-FNS needs to produce state and national aggregations of the nutrient content in school lunches to show that meals in a given state or in the country as a whole are consistent with the DGA and RDA. In addition, FNS needs to do this while imposing minimal reporting burdens on the states. The USDA-FNS contracted with RAND to look more carefully at how some states are performing SMI reviews and how they might be able to transmit data with limited additional burden. In particular, it asked seven states to work collaboratively with RAND — through on-site, in-depth interviews — to explore possible reporting systems: California, Georgia, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin. These states were chosen as representative of regional differences across the country and of methods for conducting SMI reviews. This report describes the results of the analysis of possible approaches for states to report the results of their nutritional reviews to USDA-FNS.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    What Data Should Be Provided?

  • Chapter Three

    Current Review Procedures

  • Chapter Four

    How Data Elements Could Be Collected

  • Chapter Five

    Discussion of the Content of Specific Meals

  • Appendix A

    Protocol for Data Collection

  • Appendix B

    Individuals Interviewed in the Seven States

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's Labor and Population Program.

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