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School Food Service Costs: Does Location Matter?


  • Ollinger, Michael
  • Ralston, Katherine L.
  • Guthrie, Joanne F.


Over 30 million lunches and 9.8 million breakfasts are served every day to children in participating American schools through the USDA National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. It is challenging for participating local school food authorities (SFAs) to serve appealing, healthful meals while covering food, labor, and other operating costs with USDA reimbursements. But it may be more difficult for some SFAs than others due to cost differences across locations. Analysis of data from a large national sample reveals that after controlling for differences in SFA characteristics, sharp differences in costs remained among rural, urban, and suburban SFAs and across regions. The highest costs occurred in Mid-Atlantic, suburban SFAs and the lowest cost existed in southwest, urban SFAs. Differences in food costs explained the largest share of this variation.

Suggested Citation

  • Ollinger, Michael & Ralston, Katherine L. & Guthrie, Joanne F., 2010. "School Food Service Costs: Does Location Matter?," 2010 Annual Meeting, July 25-27, 2010, Denver, Colorado 60690, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea10:60690
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.60690

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    Cited by:

    1. Newman, Constance, 2012. "The Food Costs of Healthier School Lunches," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 41(1), pages 1-17, April.
    2. Ollinger, Michael & Guthrie, Joanne & Peo, Audrey, 2016. "Do Large School Food Authorities Pay Less for Food used in the National School Lunch," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Boston, Massachusetts 235687, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    3. Kumcu, Aylin & Okrent, Abigail M ., 2014. "Methodology for the Quarterly Food-Away-From-Home Prices Data," Technical Bulletins 184292, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    4. Ollinger, Michael & Ralston, Katherine L. & Guthrie, Joanne F., 2011. "School Breakfast and Lunch Costs: Are There Economies of Scale?," 2011 Annual Meeting, July 24-26, 2011, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 103191, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.


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