Understanding the Assignment: School Meal Programs and Child Health Outcomes


School meal programs (SMP) reach one out of every two children aged 5-19 years globally. Recent events have highlighted the need to improve these programs’ sustainability and resilience. SMP have historically focused on the amelioration of food and nutrition insecurity and its impact on learning with relatively little attention on the health of the learner. Thus, significant gaps exist in our understanding of how these programs might improve critical short- and long-term health outcomes and how these outcomes can be measured in individuals and populations. This session will focus on 1) understanding factors influencing child nutrition ecology including internal (biology, genetics, health status) and external (home, community, physical) environments; 2) integrating that understanding into the assessment of SMPs; and 3) developing a framework to support the translation and implementation of that new knowledge to assess the need for and assessment of the impact of context-specific, equitable SMPs. The content of the session is based on a National Institutes of Health project entitled BOND-KIDS, a collaboration between the NIH, the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Academy.

Learning Objectives

List areas of impact from nutrition on growth and development, as well as assessments to be implemented during school program evaluation

Describe environmental factors that influence effectiveness of school meal programs and the rationale for inclusion during evaluation

Explain how translational science can be used to strengthen existing and new school meal programs

Performance Indicators

3.3 Advocates for nutrition and dietetics services and resources for clients and populations

6.3 Disseminates research findings to support knowledge translation

12.3 Designs and develops community and population health programs, interventions or initiatives to meet the needs of communities and/or populations


Christina Economos

Dean ad interim

Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University

Elizabeth Yakes Jimenez

Professor and Assistant Dean for Research

University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, College of Population Health

Daniel Raiten

Director of Nutrition

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health

Connie Weaver

Distinguished Research Professor

San Diego State University


Regan Bailey

Associate Director

Institute for Advancing Health through Agriculture

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