Background: In 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued flexibilities to the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, relaxing the nutrition standards for milk, whole grains, and sodium. This study examines the implementation decision-making among Missouri school food services and the impact of implementing these flexibilities on the meals served. Methods: We developed a survey using the Consolidated Framework of Implementation to determine schools’ implementation of the flexibilities and factors related to implementation. To determine how the implementation of flexibilities affected participation, we merged the survey results with school-level meal county data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We used ordinary least squares regression to examine how flexibility adoption related to the number of meals served. Results: Most schools implemented the wheat, milk, and sodium flexibilities. Common reasons for implementation were increasing participation, meeting students’ preferences, expanding menu variety, and saving money. The implementation of flexibilities was associated with more lunches and breakfasts being served per month, particularly among free and reduced-price meals. Conclusions: Continued research is needed to determine how the increased uptake of school meals that do not fully meet dietary guidelines by low-income students results in inequities in health outcomes. The findings can inform the design and implementation of future policies, especially as new rules related to flexibility design are determined.
Moreland Russell, S., Jabbari, J., Farah Saliba, L., Ferris, D., Jost, E., Frank, T., & Chun, Y. (2023). Implementation of Flexibilities to the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs and Their Impact on Schools in Missouri. Nutrients, 15(3), Article 3. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15030720