Back to Top

New School Food Standards Improve Children’s Diets

New AAEA member research released in AEPP

The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, championed by first lady Michelle Obama allowed USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, opportunity to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children.

In the new research “Did the New School Meal Standards Improve  the Overall Quality of Children’s Diets?” published in the Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, Travis Smith and Shun Chen from the University of Georgia along with Eliza Mojduszka from the Office of the Chief Economist, USDA dig deeper into how the changes to nutritional standards for school meals translated into the quality of food consumed by children.

Smith says, “The positive effect of a school meal on children's overall dietary quality more than doubled from 3.2% in the 2009/10 and 2011/12 school years (pre-HHFKA) to 7.7% in the 2013/14 and 2015/16 school years (post-HHFKA). Most of this increase was driven by older, higher-income students, who previously did not benefit from a school meal. In other words, prior to the HHFKA, it appeared that school meals mainly benefited more disadvantaged populations, where as post-HHFKA we see much more sweeping improvements across the board.”

If you are interested in setting up an interview, please contact Allison Ware in the AAEA Business Office.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices and the online open access publication series Applied Economics Teaching Resources. To learn more, visit

Contact: Allison Ware
Senior Communications Manager
(414) 918-3190