Archived Project

Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project

Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project
The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, provided nonpartisan analysis and evidence-based recommendations on policies that affect the safety and healthfulness of school foods. The project concluded its work in 2017.

Since the 1990s, our nation’s children have become less healthy and are at higher risk for serious chronic health issues; ultimately leading to increased health care costs for all of us. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), children’s diets are of poor nutritional quality. They include too much salt and saturated fat, and too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, the IOM, the CDC and other public health groups have identified schools as a crucial setting in which to improve children’s diets.

Additionally, numerous reports have identified gaps in food-safety policies, potentially allowing unsafe food onto children’s lunch trays. According to the CDC, 23,000 foodborne illnesses were caused by food served in U.S. schools between 1998 and 2007, a number that is likely underreported. Studies have documented that schools may unknowingly receive and serve recalled food and that mandatory cafeteria inspections are sometimes skipped.

The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project worked to help ensure that:

analysis
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6 Takeaways Show Strong Progress on School Food and Nutrition

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6 Takeaways Show Strong Progress on School Food and Nutrition

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Innovation in school food choices
Innovation in school food choices
Report

School Meal Programs Innovate to Improve Student Nutrition

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Report

School meal programs and the individuals who run them have come under intense scrutiny in recent years as they planned for and implemented the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s healthier standards for foods and drinks offered to the nation’s students. But it is not just breakfast and lunch menus that have changed; vending machine options, a la carte lines, food-based fundraising practices, and more are being improved to meet the updated school nutrition rules that began to take effect in the 2012-13 school year (SY).

school lunch
healthy school lunch
Issue Brief

Healthy School Lunches Improve Kids’ Habits

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Issue Brief

Schools can serve healthy lunches, but whether kids will eat them is a question that has been asked often since the 2012-13 school year, when districts across the United States raised the nutritional quality of meals to meet updated national standards.

Article

Serving Healthy School Meals: Kitchen Equipment

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Article
Healthier nutrition standards
Healthier nutrition standards
Report

Healthier Nutrition Standards Benefit Kids

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Report

Each day across the United States, more than 4 million children, many from low-income families, receive meals and snacks through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The program, which began as the Child Care Food Program in 1968, provides funding for these foods, in the form of reimbursements, to a variety of child care, after-school, and adult day care institutions that serve young children, older adults, and chronically disabled people. Through CACFP, the USDA aims to ensure that all of these vulnerable populations have daily access to nutritious foods.

School kitchens
School kitchens
Issue Brief

Neighborhoods Benefit From Access to School Kitchens

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Issue Brief

As school districts nationwide serve more nutritious foods to students, cafeterias have become classrooms that help children to develop healthy eating habits for a lifetime. Lunchrooms also serve as gathering places for parent-teacher organizations and student groups. And schools across the country are making their kitchen facilities available to the public for activities that promote health and community engagement, such as cooking classes, business incubation, and food storage for after-school events.

Rural school bus
Rural school bus
Report

Peer and Community Networks Drive Success in Rural School Meal Programs

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Report

More than half of public school districts in the United States are in rural communities where millions of students struggle with poverty and hunger. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 24 percent of rural children lived in poverty and 686,000 rural households with children were food insecure in 2014. About 95 percent of rural schools participate in the National School Lunch Program, and many also operate federally funded breakfast and snack programs. But because of their remote locations and smaller populations of students and potential employees, these districts face acute challenges in delivering healthy meals.

OUR WORK