Impact of the National School Lunch Program on Children's Food Security
The U.S. is the world's largest economy, accounting for about 20% of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With a high income and a mature welfare system, households in the U.S. should have enough food and healthy diets, especially for children. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 9.8% of households with children were considered food insecure in 2010. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the second largest federally assisted food program and aims to provide nutritious, well-balanced lunches for school-age children. This thesis examined the association between NSLP participation and children's food security, using the third School Nutrition Dietary Assessment study (SNDA-III). An 18-item household module was used to measure the food security status of children. An ordered probit model was estimated using a two-stage instrumental variable approach in order to address the endogeneity of program participation. We found that students with enough time to eat lunch were 12% more likely to participate in NSLP. Student participation in NSLP was also influenced by the receipt of free/reduced priced meals, being elementary or middle school age, residing in rural area, parents' having a lower education level and living in a single parent household with one employed parent or in two-parent household with both parents employed. The second stage of the model indicates that receipt of free/reduce price meals, household structure and employment, school level, race, and education have significant effects on food security status. Moreover, we found that children from marginally food-secure households have characteristics similar to those from food insecure households rather than highly food-secure households. After controlling for the endogeneity of program participation, we could not find evidence to support program participation having a significant effect on children's food security. To confirm our findings we used adult and child food security modules as alternative food security measures. A bivariate probit model was estimated as an alternative model, but there was still no significant association between NSLP and food security status. A possible reason that NSLP has no effect on food security was that participating children did not intake significantly more calories from school lunch.
Gao, Xiang (2012). Impact of the National School Lunch Program on Children's Food Security. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from