How Good Are School Lunches?

CED-78-22: Published: Feb 3, 1978. Publicly Released: Feb 3, 1978.

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The National School Lunch Act provides that lunches served by participating schools must meet standards prescribed by the Secretary of Agriculture. The type of lunch required by the Secretary, called the Type A lunch, contains specific quantities of various food types. The goal in requiring Type A lunches is to provide students, over time, with one-third of the recommended dietary allowances published by the National Academy of Sciences.

Independent laboratory tests showed that compliance with Type A requirements did not insure the achievement of one-third of the recommended dietary allowances. Sample lunches from New York, Cleveland, and Los Angeles were significantly short in as many as 8 of the 13 nutrients tested. Although microbiological tests showed that the lunches were safe to eat, testing and standards used by local authorities varied considerably, and there were no Federal procedures or standards for microbiological testing in the program other than for milk. At least 40 percent of a random sample of lunches served in New York City during a 6-week test period did not comply with Type A requirements. The Department of Agriculture has acknowledged that compliance with Type A requirements is a nationwide problem and plans to make changes in its regulations.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Department of Agriculture should give consideration to alternatives to requirements for the school lunch program. It should: develop explicit instructions on how and when Federal, State, and local monitoring of compliance is to be performed, check to see that instructions are being followed and determine if Federal requirements are being met, and stop Federal reimbursement in cases where noncompliance with Federal requirements is not promptly corrected. The Department should consider the possibility and feasibility of publishing uniform standards and procedures for localities conducting microbiological testing in the school lunch program.

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