This study provides national estimates of the food acquisitions of public unified school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). It describes the type, quantity, and value of foods purchased by public school districts and the relative importance of foods donated to these school districts by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The study also examines procurement practices and operating characteristics of these school districts and the relationship of these characteristics to food costs. Data were collected form a nationally representative sample of 324 unified public school districts during School Year 1996/97. Findings are compared to the results of a similar study conducted in SY 1984/85.
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) are administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The NSLP operates in over 94,000 schools and institutions. More than 26 million children receive meals through the program on any given day; about half of these meals are provided free of charge. The SBP operates in approximately two-thirds of the schools and institutions that offer the NSLP, most commonly in schools that serve large numbers of economically disadvantaged children. On an average day, roughly seven million children receive breakfast through the SBP. The vast majority of these meals are provided free of charge. School Food Authorities (SFAs) participating in the NSLP and SBP receive two types of federal assistance: donated surplus commodities and cash reimbursements.
The analysis conducted in this study builds on these two strands of the literature and uses three alternate definitions of breakfast: Consumption of any food or beverage. Breakfast intake of food energy greater than 10 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Consumption of foods from at least two of five main food groups and intake of food energy greater than 10 percent of the RDA. As the definition of breakfast becomes more robust, the percentage of students who eat breakfast declines. Almost 9 of 10 students consumed any food or beverage, but only 6 of 10 students consumed food from at least two of the main food groups and had breakfast intake of food energy greater than 10 percent of the RDA.
The National School Lunch Act requires that schools that are participating in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Programs claim reimbursements only for lunches or breakfasts which meet the nutrition standards of the National School Lunch Act, including compliance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.