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CDC Releases Study About Food and Beverages in School Lunches

A new CDC study examines the improvements and disparities in elementary schools based on the food and beverage choices--learn more here.


girldrinkingmilk.jpgThe Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new study entitled, “Improvements and Disparities in Types of Foods and Milk Beverages Offered in Elementary School Lunches, 2006–2007 to 2013–2014,” by Lindsey Turner, Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, Lisa Powell and Frank J. Chaloupka. 

In this study, researchers analyzed survey responses from 4,630 public elementary schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. The survey evaluated disparities and changes in school lunch characteristics from 2006-2007 to 2013-2014. A report evaluating the changes in school lunches was published last year by Bridging the Gap, a nationally recognized research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This latest paper evaluates the disparities findings of the research.

“Improvements and Disparities in Types of Foods and Milk Beverages Offered in Elementary School Lunches, 2006–2007 to 2013–2014” confirmed the findings from the Bridging the Gap report, stating “That elementary school lunches have been consistently improving since 2006–07. More schools are offering healthier fare and fewer schools are offering unhealthier items.” The new CDC study also includes analyses showing progress has been uneven among racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups: 

  • Low socioeconomic status (SES) schools were significantly less likely to offer salads regularly than were middle or high SES schools in 2013–14 (adjusted prevalence: low, 38.5%; middle, 47.4%; high, 59.3%). 
  • Majority-black or majority-Latino schools were significantly less likely to offer fresh fruit than were predominantly white schools in 2013–14 (adjusted prevalence: majority black, 61.3%; majority Latino, 73.0%; predominantly white, 87.8%). 

Schools in the West were significantly more likely to offer salad bars than were schools in the Northeast, Midwest or South in 2013–14 (adjusted prevalence: West, 66.3%; Northeast, 22.3%; Midwest, 20.8%; South, 18.3%). The study also states that no evidence suggests that premade salads are nutritionally inferior to salad bars. 

The implications of the study: 

While school lunches have become healthier, disparities remain. Many school foodservice programs continue to need support and resources to facilitate their efforts to offer healthy meals to all students.

Read the full CDC study here.