Submission Date


Document Type



Business & Economics

Faculty Mentor

Jennifer VanGilder


Presented during the 18th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 22, 2016 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

In 2010, President Obama signed the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, establishing a monetary incentive for schools that served meals following a more rigorous nutritional requirement than standard guidelines. This act is a step in the right direction towards placing more importance on school lunches, however America’s lunchroom practices continue to be environmentally unsustainable, and students absorb this message. The production and transportation of processed cafeteria food contributes to climate change, its packaging is polluting, and its consumption contributes to obesity. The use of premade foods and sales from vending machines increase as lunch times grow ever shorter. In addition, poor school lunches are connected to lower standardized test scores, attendance rates, and graduation rates. Fortunately, solutions to these problems are possible through school lunch program initiatives. Some examples are farm to school programs, food education, school gardens, cooking lessons, taste tests, etc. Studies are beginning to show that these initiatives improve student food choice, willingness to try new foods, and the environmental impact of the school, to name a few. So why do most programs remain unchanged and why haven’t lawmakers encouraged these initiatives in the National School Lunch Program? Is it a matter of costs, effort, or a lack of knowledge? Using economic analysis, this research seeks to uncover the benefits of the National School Lunch Program and further uncover potential policies that could increase the use of innovative strategies and take the benefits beyond the cafeteria.

Open Access

Available to all.