Resource | Research | Assessing/Improving Operations
School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study

This study is the first nationally representative, comprehensive assessment of the school meal programs since the updated nutrition standards for school meals were phased in beginning School Year 2012-2013. A study methodology report that describes the study design, sampling and data collection and a Summary Report that provides a brief overview of the study and key findings from the various reports are also available.

Resource | Research | Assessing/Improving Operations
Direct Certification in the National School Lunch Program Report to Congress: State Implementation Progress, School Year 2014-2015

This report responds to the requirement of PL 110-246 to assess the effectiveness of state and local efforts to directly certify children for free school meals. Direct certification is a process conducted by the states and by local educational agencies to certify eligible children for free meals without the need for household applications. 

Resource | Research | Assessing/Improving Operations
Approaches to Measuring Erroneous Payments in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program At The State Level

The second Access, Participation, Eligibility and Certification Study (APEC II) included a follow-on report that provided statistically-derived state-level estimates of school meals erroneous payments. However, while APEC II provided a rough indicator of relative risk for groups of states (e.g., higher than average, about average, lower than average), it was not a state-representative direct measure, and creating actual annual measures of such erroneous payments at the state level using APEC methodology is cost-prohibitive. This report explores alternative approaches to developing measurement-based state-specific estimates that are responsive to year-to-year changes in the actual underlying rate in each state. It also provides cost and burden estimates for the implementation of each of these methods.

Resource | Research | Assessing/Improving Operations
HHFKA Implementation Research Brief Series

This series of research briefs examines best practices in School Food Authorities' implementation of key provisions and their impacts in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, including Fruits and Vegetables, Plate Waste, Sodium, Participation, Revenue, Whole Grains, Smart Snacks, and a special view of Obesity.

Resource | Research | Assessing/Improving Operations
Program Error in the NSLP and SBP: Findings from the Second Access, Participation, Eligibility and Certification Study (APEC II)

FNS developed the Access, Participation, Eligibility and Certification (APEC) study series, which collects and analyzes data from a nationally representative sample of schools and school food authorities (SFAs) about every 5 years. APEC allows FNS to develop a national estimate of erroneous payment rates and amounts in three key areas: certification error, meal claiming error and aggregation error.  FNS recently completed APEC II, which collected data in School Year 2012-2013 and this report summarizes those findings.

Resource | Research | Assessing/Improving Operations
School Foodservice Indirect Cost Study

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) directed USDA to study the extent to which school food authorities (SFAs) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) pay indirect costs to local education agencies (LEAs). It specifically requested an assessment of the methodologies used to establish indirect costs, the types and amounts of indirect costs that are charged and not charged to the school foodservice account, and the types and amounts of indirect costs recovered by LEAs. To address the research questions, information was collected from four perspectives: (1) the State education agency finance officer, (2) the State child nutrition director, (3) the LEA business manager, and (4) the SFA director. 

Resource | Research | Food/Nutrient Analysis
School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study IV

This report summarizes findings from the fourth School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study (SNDA-IV), which collected data from nationally representative samples of school districts and schools in school year (SY) 2009-10. As in prior studies, the nutrient content of the average meals offered and served in the Nation’s schools was compared with regulatory standards in effect at the time—the School Meal Initiative (SMI) nutrition standards—as well as selected recommendations included in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In January 2012, USDA issued new standards for school meals to be phased in over 3 years beginning in SY 2012-13. The data reported here thus serve as a marker of progress in achieving the SMI standards, and a baseline for measuring future improvements under the new standards. The study also collected information about the availability of competitive foods—foods sold in competition to USDA school meals through a la carte sales in cafeterias, vending machines, school stores, and other venues. Finally, the study collected data from a sample of elementary schools participating in the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) and compared them to elementary schools nationwide.

Resource | Research | Food/Nutrient Analysis
Evaluation of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program: Interim Report

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) aims to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among students in the nation’s poorest elementary schools by providing free fresh fruits and vegetables to students outside of regular school meals. The results presented in this interim report, for the 2010-2011 school year, focus on the total quantity of fruits and vegetables consumed and total energy intake (also referred to as total caloric intake), allowing the assessment of whether any additional fruit and vegetable consumption was in addition to or in place of other foods consumed.

Resource | Research | Cost Study
School Lunch and Breakfast Cost Study - II

This study examines the cost of producing National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) meals during School Year (SY) 2005-06. It measures both reported costs – costs charged
directly to school food service accounts – and unreported costs – those costs paid by school districts in support of School Food Authority (SFA) operations – to estimate the full cost of meal production.

Resource | Research | Food/Nutrient Analysis
School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study - III

FNS  sponsored the third SNDA study to provide up-to-date information on the school meal programs, the school environment that affects the programs, the nutrient content of school meals, and the contributions of school meals to students’ diets. Data were collected from a nationally representative sample of districts, schools, and students in school year (SY) 2004-2005. The nutrient content of school meals offered and served was compared to USDA’s current regulatory standards.