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Economies of Scale, the Lunch-Breakfast Ratio, and the Cost of USDA School Breakfasts and Lunches

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  • Ollinger, Michael
  • Guthrie, Joanne

Abstract

Through USDA’s National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, schools receive financial support to assist them in serving nutritious meals to students. Meal reimbursements are provided to a school food authority (SFA) on the basis of a child’s financial need, allowing schools to provide healthy meals to low-income students for free or at a reduced price. Reimbursement rates are set nationwide, yet variation in school location, size, and other factors may influence the costs to schools for providing meals, with implications for the adequacy of reimbursement. Previous ERS research using data from the 2002-03 school year found that school food service costs vary by location. This study uses those same data to build on that research by examining breakfast and lunch costs separately to assess how economies of scale and the balance between the number of breakfasts and lunches served affect costs. Costs of both breakfasts and lunches vary considerably across SFAs. Economies of scale exist for both breakfasts and lunches but are much stronger for breakfasts. The balance between breakfasts and lunches served also affects costs, with the cost per breakfast dropping dramatically as the number of breakfasts and lunches served become more balanced.

Suggested Citation

  • Ollinger, Michael & Guthrie, Joanne, 2015. "Economies of Scale, the Lunch-Breakfast Ratio, and the Cost of USDA School Breakfasts and Lunches," Economic Research Report 212480, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uersrr:212480
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    File URL: http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/212480/files/ERR-196.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Agribusiness; Agricultural and Food Policy; Community/Rural/Urban Development; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety; Food Security and Poverty; Industrial Organization;

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