Healthy Children are Ready to Learn
SFUSD is committed to creating access to free, reduced-, and full-priced lunches to children in public schools. SFUSD has made considerable efforts to change their healthy meals program, including contracting an independent vendor Revolution Foods to provide fresh and nutritious meals to diverse students within the school district. However, despite the improvement in meals provided, not all students are participating in meals district wide. In particular, the district is interested in identifying key factors that are associated with high and low participation among different ages and demographics.
Research into the Efficacy of SFUSD’s Healthy Meals Initiative
The Student Nutrition Services team has been working to further understand participation patterns. By looking at current student participation data, variables associated with meal distribution, and school site-specific factors, the team is interested in articulating associated contributions and barriers to participation.
Examples of questions analyzed and a summary of initial results include:
- What is the relationship between the percent of Free and Reduced Lunch qualifying students in each school, and the percentage of Free and Reduced Lunch student participation?
Descriptive data analyses shows that in schools with low percentages of Free and Reduced Lunch students enrolled school wide, lower percentages of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch participate in school lunch programs. Conversely, in schools with higher percentages of Free and Reduced Lunch qualifying students tend to have higher percentages of participating students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch.
The Student Nutritional Services team identified outliers to these trends. For schools with low percentages of Free and Reduced Lunch qualifying students enrolled school wide, the team identified schools with high levels of participation. These schools will serve as examples for further qualitative research in order to know what factors contribute to their high rates of participation among students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. The team also identified outlier schools for low levels of participation of qualifying Free and Reduced Lunch students in school with high levels of qualifying Free and Reduced Lunch students school wide. These schools also are identified for further qualitative research to understand contributing barriers to participation, and perhaps sites for intervention.
- What are trends in participation between different demographic profiles (race/ethnicity, SES)?
Among all ages, the team identified participation trends between different ethnicities. During the fall semester of the 2014-2015 academic school year, non-Chinese Asian and Pacific Islander and White students under participated, when compared to their demographic representation district wide. In contrast, African American, Chinese and Hispanic/Latino students over participated, when compared to each subgroup’s percent representation district wide.
- Among Elementary-aged students, does having recess before or after lunch contribute to increased lunch participation?
At this point, results are inconclusive because of the small sample size and range in results. The team has committed to gathering more data to better analyze the relationship between these potentially correlated factors.
- Among Elementary-aged students, does the number of minutes and/or the number of students in the cafeteria contribute to school lunch participation?
The general trend shows that the greater the number of students per minute was, the lower the participation in the lunch program. Yet, the data also shows that the mean number of students per minute in the district is 1.75 students/minute and the median is 0.94 student/minute. Additionally, for this particular analysis two schools were taken out of the sample since they were outliers with high number of students per minute as well as high participation rates: Gordon Lau, 7.5 students/minute, 82.1% ADP & Sanchez, 6.7 students per minute, 78.7% ADP.
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