Date of Award

12-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Economics

Advisor

Mroz, Thomas A

Committee Member

Kropp, Jaclyn D

Committee Member

Miller, Daniel P

Committee Member

Willis, David B

Abstract

This research focuses on the health impacts of participation in the National School Lunch Program, a program providing free and reduced-cost lunches for income-eligible students and minimally subsidizing lunches for income-ineligible students. In the past decade, increasing incidence of childhood obesity, particularly among low-income individuals has drawn scrutiny over the NSLP's role in the health of student-aged children.

The first chapter introduces the reader to the NSLP, providing a history of the program since its inception at the turn of the 20th century and addressing current issues in the economic literature regarding health impacts of program participation. The second chapter examines four econometric models estimating the effect of NSLP participation on obesity and finds mixed results.

Much of the previous literature assumes that all NSLP participants receive nutritionally equivalent meals, regardless of school or student characteristics. The third and fourth chapters use novel datasets to investigate the validity of this assumption. Chapter Three examines menu offerings of the NSLP across school districts, highlighting variability in menu composition across income levels. Chapter Four addresses factors affecting students' selection of the daily entrée, including race, gender, age, and income-eligibility. Key results include: 1) students attending wealthier school districts are offered more entrees, fruits and vegetable choices per week, possibly resulting in nutritionally superior meals; 2) students receiving free lunches are more likely than students purchasing paid-price lunches to choose entrees with more fat and carbohydrates and less protein.

Included in

Nutrition Commons

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