Document Type

Master's Culminating Experience

Publication Date



The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity in the United States has prompted researchers to examine the factors that contribute to children’s food choices and consumption. Schools provide ample opportunities to teach children healthy eating habits, as well as create eating environments that are conducive to healthy eating behaviors. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides federally assisted meals to millions of children every day and the assessment of the NSLP provides an opportunity to examine the school-eating environment. Hierarchical and logistic modeling of the SNDA-III, the USDA assessment of the NSLP, was conducted to determine relationships between environmental factors and children’s consumption of the two food items for which most children should increase and decrease consumption. Results suggest that children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables is significantly related to the cleanliness of the cafeteria floors, whether a food service staff member spoke to a parent group, and whether the child purchased a sweet food item to accompany his or her meal. Children’s dessert consumption was significantly related to the school’s nutrition policies in food purchasing and whether the child brought lunch from home or acquired it at school. Limitations of the SNDA-III data created challenges to a comprehensive analysis of the role of the school eating environment on children’s food consumption and more research and work is needed to develop a more relevant assessment of the influence of environment on food consumption.