Evaluation Synthesis on the National School Lunch Program

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Evaluation Synthesis on the National School Lunch Program

Talia Orencel
Program Evaluation
PUAD 742
Spring 2011

Introduction

An evaluation synthesis is a methodology for addressing large amounts of information on a specific topic without having to conduct a primary data collection. The benefit of an evaluation synthesis is that it draws upon a number of well- conducted studies in order to find answers to questions about a certain topic. It can gather material from many different evaluation reports, done by different people, at different places and times.

The program being assessed in this evaluation synthesis is the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). In an assessment conducted by the Federal Government in 2006, with the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), NSLP received a rating of moderately effective. This program has been in part effective, yet there is still a need for improvement. The objective of this synthesis is to understand what are the outcomes for the program recipients? This program started when malnutrition was a major concern among the American people, now the issue has flipped to the other end of the spectrum as obesity as a major concern. This synthesis seeks to understand just how well functioning this program appears to be, and what facets of the program may be in particular need of improvement.

Overview of the National School Lunch Program

In 1946, President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) in order to protect the health and well being of children in the United States of America. As a result of this act, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was established and became “the second largest U.S. food and nutrition assistance program in both numbers of children served—30 million in 2006—and Federal dollars spent—8 billion in 2006” (Ralston, Newman, Clauson, Guthrie, & Busby, 2008). This program emerged due to the growing concern of malnutrition among low-income and disadvantaged children. Although poverty is still a major concern in the United States, this issue of malnutrition has transformed into an issue of obesity. The program has grown since its beginnings, serving in 94 percent of schools, both public and private, and accounts for 17 percent of Federal expenditures towards food and nutrition assistance programs. “Almost 60 percent of American children age 5-18 participate in the program at least once per week, and almost half of all lunches served are provided free to students, with an additional 10 percent provided at reduced prices” (Ralston, Newman, Clauson, Guthrie, & Busby, 2008) .

There have been many changes to the program over the years. In 1966, The Child Nutrition Act (CNA) was signed along with amendments to NSLA, consolidating the program’s administration, as well as expanding its services of meal assistance to include programs like the School Breakfast Program (SBP), the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. In the 1980’s costs and targeting became a major issue, which sparked the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Acts 1980-81. These acts reduced subsidies for paid meals but increased participation in free lunches by increasing the range of income for eligibility. Recent changes in the 1990’s through 2004 have focused on the health concerns. Following the Healthy Meals for Americans Act in 1994, schools had to meet the new requirements from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for example limiting fat to 30 percent of calories. To help schools reach this goal, The School Meals Initiative was created and worked with Team Nutrition to help develop a menu-planning system that was both healthy and appealing to students. The 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act expanded requirements to schools to implement wellness policies that specify nutrition guidelines for all the foods in the school.

Under NSLP requirements, schools operate their meal assistance programs on a nonprofit basis....
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