Evaluating Food Policy

Research Agenda

Imperfect Implementation of National School Lunch Program

This pilot study, funded by the Prevention Research Center and led by SPI affiliate Sarah Moreland-Russell, investigates the implementation of federal school meal policy at the local state and school levels. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 updated nutrition requirements to make school meals healthier. The Trump administration challenged these standards, and a series of court rulings made the regulation more difficult for the schools tasked with implementation to follow. Our research focused on how schools interpreted the regulation and the actual implementation on the local level with nutrition experiences within schools.

 WIC Participation and Program Utilization

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) help improve participants’ diets and decreases health care costs. However, recent trends show that participation has been declining in Missouri. SPI is working with Operation Food Search to collect information from participants, government officials, clinics, and others involved in the program via surveys and interviews. The findings will be used to recommend improvements to the WIC program and policies, with the ultimate goal of creating a WIC service that works better for everyone.

School Breakfast Program

The School Breakfast Program helps ensure children, regardless of household income, can start their school day with a meal. Research shows that students who consume breakfast are able to focus better in school, perform better on tests, and miss fewer school days. However, many eligible students are unable to take advantage of this program due to reasons such as transportation, limited time, or not being eligible for a free or reduced-price meal.

To better understand these barriers and how to overcome them, SPI is partnered with Operation Food Search on an annual Breakfast Report. The Breakfast Report shows which types of innovative programs increase breakfast participation, as well as breakfast participation data across regions and types of schools. The multi-year research project allows the team to explore trends in school breakfast across the state with the goal of increasing overall program participation.