Issues Raised concerning the Report, "The National School Lunch Program: Is It Working?"

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-11-01.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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      4 V A TI    LE
                           WASHINGTON. D.C.   208

                                                                 1W 7

The Honorable William V. Roth, Or.
United States Senate

Dear Senator Roth:

     This is in response to your letter of September 21,
in which you expressed several concerns regarding the con-
clusions and recommendations presented in a su:mmary of our
recent report, "The National School Lunch Program--Is It
Working?".  A copy of the main report, and our statement
before t.e Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human
Needs, are enclosed for ycur review. They provide greater
detail on the issues raised by your constituents.

     While we share your concerns about the cost of evaluating
the School Lunch Program's health impact, we elieve that the
Congress would be ill-advised to presume that the program is
performing as .intended. The program's current Type A pattern
is designed to provide one-third of the daily diet for 10- to
12-year-old children, yet it is fed to all children--irre-
spective of age or nutritional need. We have little oubt
that the lunch is benefiting some children, but, as noted in
our report, tere is an inVerent danger that it is also causing
undesired side-effects. We believe that USDA, assisted
by HEW, can design an evaluation of the program's health
impact that will be relatively inexpensive.   HEW already
has the ability to evaluate nutritional status, and the tech-
niques for isolating the effects of the program lunch from
external influences are well established.   (See Chapter 4,
p. 40).

     In regards to your concern that the report over empha-
sizes the lack of mandato)ry equirements for nutritio;i
teaching, our intentions were to inform the Congress that
legislation prohibits the program from imposing such require-
ments. The effectiveness of nutrition education activities
was not addressed in our work.  (See p. 53).

       In regards to your constituents' opinions that "the
Type A pattern cannot be blamed for obesity", we wish
point out that our report does not state that the programto
 is causing obesity (see pp. 45-46). We do, however,
and beyond the influence of exercise and home diet,
concerns for the program's potential to increase the
of such adverse side-effects. We are convinced that
Type A pattern, as currently st:uctured, cannot be relied
upon to provide one-third of the recommended dietary
ances (RDA) for choolchildren. And, given that the allow-
feeds both overweight and underweight children, we are
sure that "one-third RDA" or any other "standard lunch" noc
is the best choice for complementing a schoolchild's
diet. Some variation of caloric intakes may be needed. home
For these reasons we have recommended that USDA, with
assistance from HEW, conduct a study to determine the
tritional standards needed for the program to best      nu-
schoolchild health;. e believe that the experience
                                                     and data
resources obtained in EW's "Health and Nutrition Examination
  urvey" will provide a valuable contribution to this
(See Chapter 3, p. 3 and Chapter 4, p. 40).

      We agree, on a conceptual basis, with your constituents'
concerns that "an alternative meal   standard would be more com-
plicated" and that other actions have "merit as a practical,
lessexpensive way to expand program participation and
food waste". Biovever, because of the nutritional concerns
discussed earlier, we believe that changes in the Type
pattern tself are needed. Chapter 5 of our report describes
the rigidity of the Type A pattern and its detrimental
effect on program Performance. It is important, however,
to distinguish between meal patterns in general, and
Type A pattern in Particular.    The Type A pattern is rigidly
specified, both n food components and in portion-sizes.
The present standard is now undergoing revisions by
We believe that the Secretary should prescribe meal USDA.
tions in terms of nutritional standards, supplemented
one or more patterns conforming to these standards.
ance with either wuld be deemed to fulfill the Federal
requirement.   Our iew is tnat such an option would encourage
flexibilitv in menu planning, and attract more children
Lnto the program.   (See p. 55).
     The basis for our estimate that program food costs
could Le reduced by more than $100 million is explained
Chapter 8 of the repoit. Wie recommended that Lhe Secretary
of Agriculture examine approaches and implement procedures
for improving the food procurement economies of small

                               USDA has indicated that it
medium-sized school systems.      on this matter and will
is currently undertaking actions
                                  the near future. (See
be reporting on its proposals in
p. 123).
                                          please feel free
      If we can be of further assistance,
 to contact us.

                         ~On Comptroller General
                             of the United States


 cc:   Mr. Keller (OCG)
       Mr. Fitzgerald (OCR)
       Mr. Havens (PAD)
       Mr. Crowther (PAD)
       Mr. Myers (PAD)
       Mr. Delfico (PAD)
       Mr. Sykes (PAD)
       Index & Files