Poster Topical Area: Policy

Location: Hall D

Poster Board Number: 847

P24-005 - Development of Evidence-based School Lunch Best Practices: A critical review

Monday, Jun 11
8:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Objectives: The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was developed to provide healthy food to children within the school setting. Lunches served in participating schools must meet NSLP nutrition standards. Research has shown that in school lunches meeting NSLP standards, there may be significant variation in dietary quality (DQ), which is associated with child and adult weight status, chronic disease risk, and academic performance. Thus, the objective of this study was to: 1) Review previous research on child DQ recommendations and techniques for effective implementation of healthy school lunches; and 2) Determine best practices for healthy school lunches, based on the evidence.

Relevant studies, published in the last ten years, were systematically identified using PubMed and Scopus. Keywords and search strategies were determined a priori with professional librarian assistance. Two independent reviewers assessed included studies for methodological quality, according to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library criteria. Results were summarized and used to determine best practices for schools planning healthy lunches.

Twenty-one articles met inclusion criteria, 14 related to DQ and seven related to implementation. The average quality of included studies was neutral. Best practices to improve DQ of school lunches included increasing dairy, fruit, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and fish, and decreasing/ minimizing red meat, processed meat, total fat, saturated fat, salt, refined grains, and pre-fried/ fried foods. Implementation techniques that improve selection and consumption of healthy foods included use of nudge strategies and Smarter Lunchrooms interventions; increasing normativeness, convenience, and attractiveness; including students in planning and implementation; and marketing healthy foods to schoolchildren.

The current review resulted in the determination of evidence-based best practices, including implementation techniques, for planning healthy school lunches. If used during menu and service planning processes, these best practices may help to improve school lunch DQ and increase selection and consumption of the resulting higher quality school lunches by schoolchildren.

Funding Source: N/A

CoAuthors: Brooke Cull – Kansas State University; Cindy Logan – Kansas State University; Richard Rosenkranz – Kansas State University; Sara Rosenkranz – Kansas State University

Jillian Joyce

PhD student
Kansas State University
Greensburg, Pennsylvania