What is the National School Meals Study?

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is sponsoring this study to learn about the students and their households who participate in the school meal programs. FNS wants to know more about who receives school meal benefits and whether benefits are reaching those who need them.

FNS contracted with Westat to gather this information.

Why should households participate?

The information households provide to us about their child’s participation in school meals, their feelings about the meals provided, their opinion about the school meal application process and information used to determine program eligibility, will play a vital role in improving the quality of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP).

How are households selected?

Households are chosen randomly from a list of households that applied for benefits in the school meal programs. 

What will households be asked to do?

Households will be asked to complete a 30-45 minute survey over the telephone and/or a video call (e.g., Zoom), plus some time to prepare. Households are not required to have their video on the entire time.

During the survey, households will be asked to show income documentation either, through a video call (e.g., Zoom) or by sending copies to the National School Meals study team.

What will the survey ask about?

The person who conducts the survey will ask about:

  • Your student’s participation in school breakfast and lunch meals;
  • Opinions about the school meals; and
  • The process to apply for school meals, including the information the school collects such as household size and income.
  • All information will be kept private and will be used for policy and planning purposes only.

Note: All information will be kept private and will be used for policy and planning purposes only.

Will the household receive anything for participating?

As a thank you, they can receive an electronic gift card of up to $60, depending on the tasks completed.

Do households have to participate?

No, participation in this research study is voluntary – it is their choice if they want to participate or not. If they participate, they can also skip any questions they do not want to answer. However, their opinions and experience matter and help to improve these programs. Participation will not affect meal program benefits received by students and/or households.

Will all data collected be kept secure and private?

We are very serious about protecting your privacy to the full extent required by the law. The study is reviewed and approved by an Institutional Review Board that is focused on protecting your rights and privacy as a study participant.

All survey interviewers are required to sign a confidentiality agreement. This means they are prohibited from sharing or talking about your personal information to anyone other than authorized research staff.

Survey answers will be combined with those of other participants nationwide. The study results and reports will be summarized in such a way that no individual family or child can ever be identified.