machines. In many cases, these options have been introduced with the intent of generating income to benefit the school or to help the school food operation break even. Indeed, according to the School Health Profiles survey (CDC, 2008b), a large majority of secondary schools in 27 states and 11 large urban school districts allowed students to buy competitive foods onsite. Thus, for schools that retain these options, reimbursable meals planned to meet revised Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements need to be sufficiently attractive to students so that students chose the school meals rather than the other options. Factors found to affect students’ decision to participate in the school lunch program include the length of the lunch period and the amount of time that one must stand in line to obtain the food (Marples and Spillman, 1995). Thus, meal patterns that lend themselves to quick service may be beneficial. The report Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools (IOM, 2007) addresses in detail the school environment and the foods and beverages sold outside the school meal programs.
The market environment. Some of the challenges in revising the Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements for school meals extend beyond the efforts of program operators and administrators. For example, many of the processed foods that are used in school meal programs to save time and reduce labor costs are high in sodium. If revised standards call for foods that differ from those offered in the general market, the food industry would require time to respond with palatable products.
As described in this chapter, the revision of the Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements for the school meal programs necessitates attention to a large number of topics. These topics range from updates in dietary and nutrient recommendations to the feasibility of implementing the changes and the costs involved. The next chapter describes the committee’s working principles, criteria, and overall approach to developing recommendations for revisions to the NSLP and the SBP.