School Meals and Fat Content

Published November 1, 2003

Schools in New York City recently began to offer a free breakfast to every student to help improve student achievement. Menus include doughnuts, buttermilk biscuits, French toast with syrup, and croissants with melted cheese.

On the other coast, schools in California will likely soon be barred from offering soft drinks for sale in elementary and junior high schools. According to the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, more than one in four of California’s children are overweight.

The nutritional quality of food served in schools was the subject of a May 2003 report from the General Accounting Office, which examined school lunches. The auditors found schools had reduced the average proportion of calories from fat in school lunches from 38 percent to 34 percent. However, three-quarters of the schools had not achieved the required rate of just 30 percent.

In addition, the report found school lunches contained too much salt and too much calcium. Although the study showed most teachers provide nutrition education to K-5 students, the auditors also noted the lessons were “not enough to show an impact on children’s behavior.”

For more information …

The May 2003 report GAO-03-506 from the General Accounting Office, “School Lunch Program: Efforts Needed to Improve Nutrition and Encourage Healthy Eating,” is available online at