Document Type


Publication Date



Providing meals at school is an important part of the hunger safety net for children in the United States and worldwide; however, many children do not receive school meals even when they qualify for federally-subsidized free or reduced-priced meals. This study investigates the prevalence of several evidence-based practices that have previously been shown to increase the reach and impact of school meals. A survey was sent to a national sample of US elementary schools, with items examining practices regarding school breakfast, school lunch, recess, the promotion of meals, nutrition standards, and food waste, during the 2019–20 school year. Almost all schools that offered lunch also offered breakfast. More than 50% used a breakfast service strategy other than cafeteria service, such as grab-and-go breakfast meals. Providing at least 30 min for lunch periods and providing recess before lunch were reported by less than half of schools. About 50% of schools reported using only one or fewer meal promotional strategies (such as taste tests) throughout the school year. Use of more promotional strategies was associated with less reported food waste in a multivariable regression model accounting for school demographic characteristics. Findings show that some evidence-based practices for school meals are being implemented, but many recommendations are not being widely adopted.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.