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Why School Meals Matter: Insight from the USDA’s School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study

School Meal Programs provide children with access to nutritious foods. Research has shown students get their most nutritious meals at school! Join us to learn more.

Member Price $24.00

Nonmember Price $54.00

DPG/MIG Price $0.00


This product is free for SNS members.

This webinar was presented live on November 15, 2022.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) help ensure children have access to nutritious foods while in school and can help students meet dietary recommendations. In fact, recent research has shown students may get their most nutritious meal of the day at school! In this session, you’ll gain insight from the USDA’s School Nutrition & Meal Cost Study on how school meals contribute to students’ nutrient and food group intakes and how plate waste can translate to lost nutrient intake. You’ll come away with key insights and information to help you better understand and communicate the nutrition benefits of the school meal programs.

CPEU: 1.0
CPE Level: 2
Performance Indicators: 8.1.1, 2.1.3, 13.2.2

Learning Objectives

  1. Learn about the premise of USDA’s School Nutrition & Meal Cost Study including research objectives.
  2. Gain insight on the contribution of school breakfasts and lunches to students’ nutrient and food group intakes.
  3. Learn about the nutritional quality of school breakfasts and lunches served to children.
  4. Understand the most common items thrown away by students (plate waste) and how this translates to calorie and nutrient waste.
  5. Apply key insights in communicating the benefits of school meals.


Maria Boyle, MS, RDN
Principal Researcher, Mathematica

Maria Boyle has over 20 years of experience working on policies, studies and evaluations related to food assistance, food security, obesity prevention and school meals. She has directed and worked on numerous national, statewide and local school nutrition studies, using diverse quantitative and qualitative methods and a variety of policy analyses. Ms. Boyle has served in a leadership role for evaluations and studies for a variety of client organizations including foundations, non-profits, and state and federal agencies such as the Gates Foundation, First 5 Los Angeles, Robert Wood Johnson’s Healthy Eating Research, USDA, USAID, CDC and State health and education departments. She oversaw the cost and plate waste data collections and analyses for the first School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study, had a lead role in the National Farm to School Evaluation, and currently serves as Deputy Project Director for the Study of Nutrition and Activity in Childcare Settings II. She has used key findings to write a number of reports and policy briefs, and has conducted conference presentations for various audiences to disseminate key lessons learned, success stories and best practices. Most recently she created a podcast and policy paper series, “Keeping America Fed”. The series focused on food insecurity and food assistance, including school meals, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Release Date: November 15, 2022


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