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Do School Lunch Menus Influence National School Lunch Program Participation?


  • Peckham, Janet G.
  • Kropp, Jaclyn D.
  • Mroz, Thomas A.
  • Haley-Zitlin, Vivian
  • Granberg, Ellen M.
  • Hawthorne, Nikki


he National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is one of the largest nutrition assistance programs in the United States, providing free and reduced-price lunches for income-eligible students as well as minimally subsidizing paid lunches for students that do not qualify to receive free or reduce-price lunches. Although the levels of nutrient deficiencies vary slightly across studies, the majority of the research concedes that NSLP participants consume more fats and sodium than non-participants, which may lead to higher rates of overweight and obesity. Furthermore, differences across income in dietary intake among NSLP participants may be an underlying cause of the previous mixed results. In this study, we investigate the relationship between income-eligibility status (Free, Reduced, or Paid) and entrée selection. Using a unique dataset tracking daily entrée choices and their nutritional value among elementary students at a suburban school district, this paper provides a novel approach to understanding the healthfulness of the NSLP. We find that while controlling for age, gender, and race, students that purchase free lunch choose entrees with less sodium than students purchasing either reduced-price or paid lunches. Relative to students purchasing free-lunches, students purchasing paid lunches also choose entrees with more protein and fat and entrees with fewer carbohydrates.

Suggested Citation

  • Peckham, Janet G. & Kropp, Jaclyn D. & Mroz, Thomas A. & Haley-Zitlin, Vivian & Granberg, Ellen M. & Hawthorne, Nikki, 2013. "Do School Lunch Menus Influence National School Lunch Program Participation?," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150398, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea13:150398

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniel L. Millimet & Rusty Tchernis & Muna Husain, 2010. "School Nutrition Programs and the Incidence of Childhood Obesity," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(3).
    2. Gundersen, Craig & Kreider, Brent & Pepper, John, 2012. "The impact of the National School Lunch Program on child health: A nonparametric bounds analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 166(1), pages 79-91.
    3. Philip M. Gleason & Carol W. Suitor, 2003. "Eating at School: How the National School Lunch Program Affects Children's Diets," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 85(4), pages 1047-1061.
    4. Ralston, Katherine L. & Newman, Constance & Clauson, Annette L. & Guthrie, Joanne F. & Buzby, Jean C., 2008. "The National School Lunch Program: Background, Trends, and Issues," Economic Research Report 56464, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    5. Benjamin L. Campbell & Rodolfo M. Nayga & John L. Park & Andres Silva, 2011. "Does the National School Lunch Program Improve Children's Dietary Outcomes?," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1099-1130.
    6. repec:mpr:mprres:7605 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:mpr:mprres:5673 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item


    National School Lunch Program; Obesity; Point of Sale Data; Consumer/Household Economics; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety; Public Economics; D12; I18; I38 Q18;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy

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