~)I CUEN kiE L f Nqo I 4 V A TI LE L r~-?- ,~ CQOMPTROLLER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES WASHINGTON. D.C. 208 7 1W 7 B.1rLe R-111810 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). PAD-78-43 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, above and beyond the influence of exercise and home diet, express concerns for the program's potential to increase the risk of such adverse side-effects. We are convinced that the 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- program 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- safeguard 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 effort. (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 reduce food waste". Biovever, because of the nutritional concerns discussed earlier, we believe that changes in the Type A 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 the 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. regula- tions in terms of nutritional standards, supplemented by one or more patterns conforming to these standards. Ccmpli- 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 in 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 and -2- 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. Sincerely, ~On Comptroller General of the United States Enclosures cc: Mr. Keller (OCG) Mr. Fitzgerald (OCR) Mr. Havens (PAD) Mr. Crowther (PAD) Mr. Myers (PAD) Mr. Delfico (PAD) Mr. Sykes (PAD) Index & Files -3-
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)