Investigation of Rural Schools’ Ability to Meet Federal Nutrition Standards

Official Title
Investigation of Rural Schools’ Challenges Meeting Federal Nutrition Standards in the School Meals Programs
United States
4/2016 – 12/2016
Social Programs
Policy/Program Analysis
Kids Safe and Healthful Foods Project, Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Data Collection, Analysis & Reporting
Focus Groups
In-depth Interviews
Literature Review
Qualitative Data Analysis
Quantitative Data Analysis

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required significant changes to nutrition standards for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Since implementing the updated standards in school districts across the nation starting in the 2012-2013 school year, USDA, state agencies, researchers, and public health advocates have followed their progress closely and provided significant broad-based training and technical assistance to help schools meet the updated standards.

Initial research and anecdotal evidence shows that smaller, rural school districts are most likely to struggle with the standards. IMPAQ conducted a study that will answer a number of key research questions. The methodology included interviews with subject matter experts, focus groups with child nutrition professionals, and a literature review.

Study findings will be presented at a symposium on rural school nutrition hosted by Pew and included in a white paper. They will set the stage for discussion on effective policy initiatives to address the challenges, with the goal of improving access to healthy meals for rural students through the school meal programs.

Our research team included senior researchers and analysts with years of experience in child nutrition policy and programming, nutrition and diet, program evaluation, food insecurity, data analysis, and focus group methodology.