Can scratch-cooking be a cost-effective way to prepare healthy school meals using USDA Foods?
Methods: Nutrient content, preparation time and methods, and food and labor costs were obtained for 146 lunch entrees served at elementary schools in 10 California districts during October 2010. Ordinary Least Squares estimations were used to test if scratch-cooking affects costs and nutrient composition.
Results: Entrees with higher scratch-cooking scores had significantly less fat and saturated fat even when controlling for other factors that could affect nutritional quality. Entrees with higher scratch-cooking scores had higher labor costs and lower food costs but overall did not cost more to prepare. Some types of entrees such as rice and pasta dishes were cheaper when prepared from scratch. Results indicate that scratch-cooking of entrees with USDA foods can improve the nutritional quality of school meals in a cost-effective way.
Discussion: These findings can inform policy and program options at the local, state and federal level in efforts to improve the quality of school meals and more effectively implement the new federal meal standards.
Learning Areas:Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Identify how scratch cooking affects the nutrition content of school meals that contain USDA Foods. Describe how scratch cooking affects the cost of preparing school meals that contain USDA Foods. Discuss policy and programmatic options for supporting scratch-cooking in schools.
Keyword(s): Nutrition, School-Based Health
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I played a leadership role in all phases of the study being presented. As associate director of the UC Berkeley Atkins Center for Weight and Health, I have been conducting studies to evaluate the impact of school based approaches to improving nutrition and physical activity for 14 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.