Research Brief| Volume 46, ISSUE 6, P621-626, November 2014

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Nutritional Comparison of Packed and School Lunches in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Children Following the Implementation of the 2012–2013 National School Lunch Program Standards



      Approximately 40% of children bring a packed lunch to school. Little is known about the quality of these lunches. This study examined the nutritional quality of packed lunches compared with school lunches for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children after the implementation of 2012–2013 National School Lunch Program standards.


      The researchers collected observational data for packed and school lunches from 3 schools in rural Virginia for 5 consecutive school days and analyzed them for macro and micro nutrients.


      Of the 1,314 observations collected; 42.8% were packed lunches (n = 562) and 57.2% were school lunches (n = 752). Energy, fat, saturated fat, sugar, vitamin C, and iron were significantly higher whereas protein, sodium, fiber, vitamin A, and calcium were significantly lower for packed lunches than school lunches.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Packed lunches were of less nutritional quality than school lunches. Additional research is needed to explore factors related to choosing packed over school lunches.

      Key Words

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