How Food Away From Home Affects Children's Diet Quality
Based on 2 days of dietary data and panel data methods, this study includes estimates of how each child’s consumption of food away from home, food from school (which includes all foods available for purchase at schools, not only those offered as part of USDA reimbursable meals), and caloric sweetened beverages affects that child’s diet quality and calorie consumption. Compared with meals and snacks prepared at home, food prepared away from home increases caloric intake of children, especially older children. Each food-away-from-home meal adds 108 more calories to daily total intake among children ages 13-18 than a snack or meal from home; all food from school is estimated to add 145 more calories. Both food away from home and all food from school also lower the daily diet quality of older children (as measured by the 2005 Healthy Eating Index). Among younger children, who are more likely than older children to eat a USDA school meal and face a more healthful school food environment, the effect of food from school on caloric intake and diet quality does not differ significantly from that of food from home.
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