Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Food Science and Human Nutrition

First Advisor

Ruth Litchfield


Background: Many factors contribute to the school nutrition environment including food policies and practices, advertising and the presence of competitive foods (CF). The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides nutritious meals to students, however CF been shown to inhibit the dietary intake of students who have access to them. School food service (SFS) operations with tight budgets often turn to CF sales to produce extra revenue, which causes lost profits from NSLP reimbursements in return. Local wellness policies (LWP) were mandated in 2006 and provided schools an opportunity to change the school nutrition environment, including CF.

Methods: Sixteen Iowa school districts were selected and school personnel completed online surveys prior to site visits in fall 2007 and spring 2009. Site visits included a NSLP observation, inventory of all CF available to students, and interview with district- and school-level personnel and administrators. CF were categorized as meeting nutritional standards (MNS) or not (NMNS) and calculations were performed by students per item and according to school characteristics. NSLP participation and CF revenues were collected by school in for the 2005-2006, 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 academic years and results were measured as meals/student/week and sales/student/year, respectively. Relationships between meals and sales and environment and policy variables were explored.

Results: Open/closed campus policy, demonstration/comparison and school size appeared to impact change, prevalence, or composition of CF. Total a la carte (ALC) items increased, while beverage vending appeared to decrease, regardless of school characteristics. Environmental variables appeared to be more related to meals and CF dollars spent than policy factors. Meals/student/week and dollars/student/year were significantly, negatively related.

Conclusions: Open/closed campus policy appeared to influence types of items offered in ALC, the change in those items over time, as well as the percentage of items meeting or not meeting nutritional standards. Competition with outside venues appeared to play a role in the school food environment. Additionally, a high LWP policy rating was not as predictive of the CF environment as a focus on CF or open/closed campus status. The physical environment influenced NSLP participation and CF sales more than policy, showing schools must implement policy for it to make a difference. The negative relationship between meals/student/week and dollars/student/year confirms that CF are not simply for revenue, but also cost NSLP reimbursements.


Copyright Owner

Elizabeth Anne Wenz



Date Available


File Format


File Size

120 pages

Included in

Nutrition Commons