Development and Validation of a Technology-Based System for Tracking and Reporting Dietary Intake at School Meals.

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This report describes the development and validation of a technology-based system that integrates data on food choice, nutrition, and plate waste to generate feedback reports summarizing students' dietary intake at school meals.


Cafeteria staff used the system to document the school lunch choices of seventh-graders (n = 37) in an urban charter school for 5 months. Plate waste was assessed by research staff using a visual estimation method that was validated against directly weighed plate waste.


Most food choices (97.1%) were correctly recorded through the system. Visual estimates of plate waste had excellent interrater reliability (r's ≥ .94) and agreement with direct measurements (ρ's ≥ .75). Plate waste assessment required approximately 10 s/tray. Fifty-four percent of parents received feedback reports consistently.


The technology-based system enabled staff to monitor dietary intake accurately at school meals. The system could potentially inform lunch menu modifications aimed at reducing plate waste.

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