Updated Nutrition Standards Have Significantly Improved the Nutritional Quality of School Lunches and Breakfasts

Publisher: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (online ahead of print, subscription required)
Jan 13, 2020
Elizabeth Gearan and Mary Kay Fox

This Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics article sheds light on how updated nutrition standards called for in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) have made school meals significantly healthier. Researchers analyzed data from two Mathematica studies that were funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service—the third School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study and the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study—to examine differences in the nutritional quality of meals served in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program after the updated standards were implemented in 2012. The authors used the Healthy Eating Index (HEI)—which assigns scores to meals based on how consistent they are with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans—to assess the nutritional quality of school meals before and after the updated standards. Findings show that the updated standards succeeded in giving children access to more nutritious meals at school.


The School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study (SNMCS)


U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service

Time Frame


Senior Staff

Liz Gearan
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Mary Kay Fox
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