State Laws Are Associated with School Lunch Duration and Promotion Practices

Published:October 27, 2017DOI:



      The changes in school meal programs stemming from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 have expanded interest in strategies that increase student participation in school lunch and reduce plate waste. However, it remains unclear what factors are associated with schools’ use of such strategies.


      This study examines whether state laws are associated with two types of school meal-related practices: (a) using promotional strategies (ie, taste tests, using posters or announcements) and (b) duration of lunch periods.


      This cross-sectional study utilized the nationally representative 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study, combined with corresponding state laws gathered by the National Wellness Policy Study. School data were available from 414 public schools in 43 states.

      Main outcome measures

      Outcome measures included 16 strategies to promote school meals and the amount of time students had to eat lunch after being seated.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Multivariate logistic regression and Poisson regression were used to examine associations between state laws and school practices, after accounting for school demographic characteristics.


      Compared to schools in states with no law about engaging stakeholders in meal programs, schools in states with a law were more likely to conduct taste tests (64% vs 44%, P=0.016), collect suggestions from students (67% vs 50%, P=0.017), and invite family members to a school meal (71% vs 53%, P=0.015). Schools used more promotion strategies in states with a law than in states without a law (mean=10.4 vs 8.8, P=0.003). Schools were more likely to provide students at least 30 minutes to eat lunch after being seated in states with laws that addressed a minimum amount of time for lunch duration (43% vs 27%, P=0.042).


      State-level policy provisions are associated with school practices. Policy development in more states may support school practices that promote lunch participation and consumption.


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      L. Turner is a research professor, College of Education, Boise State University, Boise, ID.


      J. Leider is a research specialist, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL.


      E. Piekarz-Porter is a legal researcher, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL.


      J. F. Chriqui is a professor, Division of Health Policy and Administration, School of Public Health, and fellow, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL.


      M. B. Schwartz is the director, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, and a professor, Human Development and Family Studies, University of Connecticut, Storrs.


      C. Merlo is a health scientist, School Health Branch, Division of Population Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.


      N. Brener is team lead, Survey Operations and Dissemination, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.