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Elementary School Participation in the USDA Team Nutrition Program Is Associated with More Healthful School Lunches

Ohri-Vachaspati P, Turner L, Chaloupka FJ. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 45(6):733-738, 2013.

Objective: To assess school-level characteristics associated with Team Nutrition (TN) program participation, and compare the availability of food items in school lunches in participating vs nonparticipating schools.

Methods: Cross-sectional study with a nationally representative sample of 2,489 elementary schools in the United States. A mail-back survey was used to collect school administrator–reported annual data on availability of selected healthful and unhealthful lunch items between 2006-2007 and 2009-2010. Multivariate regression analyses was used to predict the availability of food items in school lunches based on TN participation.

Results: Team Nutrition participation was higher among schools in the south, in rural areas, and in states with stronger nutrition policies. Program participation was higher in schools with mostly low-income students and where a dietitian was on staff. Participating schools were more likely to offer healthful items and less likely to serve unhealthful items during lunch.

Conclusions and Implications: The TN program has the potential to help schools offer healthier school meals.

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