School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study Volume 3: School Meal Costs and Revenues (Summary)

School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study Volume 3: School Meal Costs and Revenues (Summary)

Published: Apr 30, 2019
Publisher: Alexandria, VA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Policy Support
Associated Project

The School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study (SNMCS)

Time frame: 2013-2019

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service


Christopher W. Logan

Vinh Tran

Maria Boyle

Ayesha Enver

Matthew Zeidenberg

Michele Mendelson

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service’s (FNS) School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study (SNMCS) is the first nationally representative comprehensive assessment of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) that simultaneously examines the cost of producing school meals and the nutritional quality of those meals. In light of the widespread changes that have occurred in the school meal programs in recent years, there is particular interest in (1) comparing NSLP and SBP meal costs with both revenues from paid meals and reimbursements for free meals, and (2) comparing overall school food authority (SFA) costs versus revenues, to examine how the updated nutrition standards for reimbursable meals and competitive foods, together with other changes, may have affected SFAs’ finances.

The study addresses a broad array of research questions of interest to stakeholders at the national, State, and local levels. Study findings are presented in four report volumes plus a summary report that highlights key findings across the volumes. Report Volume 3 (this volume) provides a detailed examination of the cost of producing reimbursable meals and the revenues from school foodservice during school year (SY) 2014–2015. The study examined the costs charged to SFAs (referred to as “reported costs”), as well as those incurred by the school district in support of SFA operations but not charged to the SFA (referred to as “unreported costs”). Together, the reported costs plus unreported costs are the “full cost” of meal production. From the SFAs’ perspective, reported costs are the costs of running the foodservice operation that they expect to be able to pay from the foodservice account.

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