Lorrene Ritchie publishes invited commentary on why school meals matter now more than ever

Aug 26, 2020

Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) director and cooperative extension specialist Lorrene Ritchie commented on why school meals matter now more than ever as the United States is grappling with two major public health crises, the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism and inequities. The invited commentary was published online on August 20, 2020 in the journal Public Health Nutrition. Ritchie's commentary describes how the USDA National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which provided over 4.8 billion lunches to nearly 30 million children in the US during the 2018-2019 school year, supports improved food security for all students. This is important as students from lower income non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic families who have higher rates of participation in the NSLP than their non-minority counterparts. Given the historic levels of food insecurity Americans are now facing due to the COVID-19-related economic downturn, and the disproportionate effect it is having on black families, Ritchie also cites the importance of the NSLP in supporting health equity through improved nutrition. Ritchie shares evidence from a recent nationally representative study conducted by colleagues at Boston University School of Medicine which shows that NSLP participating students' diet quality improved after the school meal nutrition standards were updated in 2012-2013 to align with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010. Ritchie closes her commentary requesting public health researchers, practitioners and policy makers (1) object to any rollbacks to the HHFKA nutrition standards, and (2) advocate for school meals to be made available to all students without additional charge. The commentary is available online.

By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Director of Communications & Research Engagement