Waste From School Lunches

RCED-96-128R: Published: May 8, 1996. Publicly Released: May 15, 1996.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) study on the amount of nutrients wasted by students participating in the National School Lunch Program. GAO found that: (1) school lunch program participants tended to waste more nutrients than nonparticipants and be under 15 years old, female, and in urban schools; (2) participants receiving free school lunches wasted more nutrients than those participants who paid full price; (3) there were no differences in the percent of nutrients wasted by participants and nonparticipants eligible to receive free school lunches; (4) while participants consumed lunches that provided at least 33 percent of the recommended dietary allowances for calories, vitamins, and minerals, nonparticipants consumed less than 33 percent of the recommended daily allowances in these categories; (5) while no school lunches met dietary recommendations for total and saturated fats, sodium, and carbohydrates, participants' lunches were higher in these areas; (6) participants were more likely to drink milk and fruit juices and eat meat, fruits, and vegetables than nonparticipants; and (7) nonparticipants were more likely to eat sugar, sweets, sweetened beverages, crackers, and salty snacks.

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