School Lunch Quality Following Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Implementation

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Nutrition Exercise and Health Sciences

Publication Date

Spring 2016


This study investigates the effect of meal component changes by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) on school lunch quality and consumption in elementary school students, grade 2-5 before and after the HHFKA guidelines were implemented in July 2012 using the Healthy Eating Index.

In Spring 2012, before implementation of meal standards mandated by the HHFKA, digital photographs were taken of second to fifth graders’ lunches in four HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) participating elementary schools before and after the meals were consumed. In Spring 2013, after implementation of meal standards mandated by the HHFKA, digital photographs of lunches were again taken in the same schools before and after lunches were consumed. The photos were used to visually estimate the amounts of food items selected and consumed. Meals selected and consumed were scored using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010). The HEI-2010 scores of the lunches in 2012 were compared to those in 2013.

Results based upon 1,033 lunches (509 pre-HHFKA in Spring 2012 and 524 post-HHFKA in Spring 2013) revealed improved HEI-2010 scores (p< 0.05) for both served (52.2 pre-HHFKA to 57.0 post- HHFKA) and consumed meals (49.8 pre-HHFKA to 53.2 post-HHFKA). Noteworthy component scores that improved included Empty Calories (served) from 14.1 to 15.3 (maximum score 20); Total Fruit (served) from 2.3 to 3.7 (maximum score 5); Total Fruit (consumed) from 2.3 to 3.4 (maximum score 5); and Sodium (served) from 4.6 to 5.3 (maximum score 10).

Application to Child Nutrition Professionals
The current study indicates that menus offered by child nutrition professionals in four schools in Washington improved the nutritional quality of lunches served and consumed post-HHFKA implementation.


This article was originally published in The Journal of Child Nutrition & Management. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.


The Journal of Child Nutrition & Management