Assessing School Food Procurement

The Challenge

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 directed USDA to carry out a nationally representative survey of the foods purchased by school food authorities. To fulfill this requirement, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) retained Agralytica to undertake a School Food Purchase Study. The aim was to provide national estimates of the quantity, value, and unit price of food acquisitions by public unified school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP).

The Approach

The study adopted a holistic approach, combining extensive data collection with consultations involving schools, food suppliers, and policymakers at various levels of government. With this approach, we sought to gain a better understanding of the complex dynamics surrounding school food purchasing.

The Outcomes

The School Food Purchase Study generated a series of recommendations aimed at making school food purchases healthier and the systems through which they are made more efficient and cost effective.

  1. Enhanced Nutritional Standards: The report placed a strong emphasis on improving the nutritional quality of food served in schools. It called for more rigorous nutritional standards, ensuring that school meals are not only tasty but also contribute significantly to the health and well-being of students.
  2. Local Sourcing Initiatives: Recognizing the value of supporting local communities, the report advocated for partnerships with nearby farmers and food producers. By sourcing food locally, schools can ensure freshness, support local economies, and provide students with high-quality, sustainable options.
  3. Efficiency and Cost Savings: The report offered strategies for streamlining procurement processes. By making the process more efficient, schools can save both time and money. These cost savings can be redirected toward other critical educational needs, ensuring that schools can continue to provide nutritious meals to their students.

Agralytica’s work helped to make the meals served in schools healthier and the systems through which school food purchases are made more efficient and cost effective.

Looking at the Future

The School Food Purchase Study serves as a cornerstone for reshaping the landscape of school food purchasing. It lays the foundation for a healthier, more efficient, and more sustainable approach to providing nutritious meals to students. As schools nationwide implement the recommendations, they can anticipate improved nutrition, stronger community ties, and reduced costs, ultimately benefiting the health and well-being of the next generation.