To evaluate National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) participation over a 7-year period before and after the implementation of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), which required healthier school lunch options beginning in school year (SY) 2012-2013 and healthier school breakfast options beginning in SY2013-2014.Methods
Data were gathered from low-income, high-minority public schools in 4 New Jersey cities. We conducted longitudinal analyses of annual average daily participation (ADP) in school meals among enrolled students overall and among those eligible for free or reduced-price meals. We used linear mixed models to compare NSLP and SBP participation rates from SY2008-2009 to SY2014-2015.Results
NSLP participation rates among students overall differed little across years (from 70% to 72%). SBP rates among enrolled students were stable from the beginning of the study period to SY2013-2014 and then increased from 52% to 59%. Among students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, the ADP was lowest in SY2012-2013 (when the HHFKA was implemented) before rebounding.Conclusions
The HHFKA did not have a negative impact on school meal participation over time.Public Health Implications
The HHFKA-strengthened nutrition standards have not affected school meal participation rates. With time, students are likely to accept healthier options.