National School Meals Study (NSMS)

Welcome to the National School Meals Study (NSMS)!

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) funds the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, which provide nutritious meals to students during the school year.  FNS hired Westat, a private research company in Maryland, to conduct the NSMS and learn about the students and households who participate in school meal programs. In general, FNS wants to know:

  • Who the programs serve;
  • How students feel about the meals they receive; and
  • Whether school meal benefits reach those who need them.

Overview of the NSMS Household Survey

Approximately two dozen households from each school participating in the NSMS are randomly chosen to participate in a survey. If your household is contacted to participate (via mail and telephone), that means you are one of the two dozen households selected from your child’s school.

Participation is voluntary, but those who complete the survey will receive up to $60 on a Visa card as a thank you. We encourage you to take part in the study even if your child does not eat a breakfast or lunch provided by the school.

Additional Details:

  • The survey will be conducted with a parent or guardian, not with a child.
  • The survey will take place by telephone or Zoom (based on your preference) at a time convenient for you. It takes up to 45 minutes to complete.
  • You may complete the survey in English or Spanish.
  • Topics covered: your student’s participation in their school breakfast and/or lunch program; opinions about the quality of school meals; and household size and sources of income, which your school district uses to determine eligibility for school meal benefits.

Your opinions and experience matter! Every household that participates gives the study a more complete picture of the students and households served by the school meal programs.

How Is the Survey Data Used?

The survey data is used for research purposes only. Participating in the study may not help you individually, but your survey responses can help FNS improve the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

How Do We Protect Your Privacy?

We take several steps to keep everything you tell us private. Your answers to survey questions will only be seen by Westat researchers. In the final data and report to FNS, we will combine your survey answers with those from all other households across the country to summarize what we found. No findings will be reported for individuals. Additionally, no personal information will be reported for you, your child, or other household members. All personal information will be removed from the data.

All survey interviewers are required to sign a confidentiality agreement. This means they are prohibited from sharing or talking about you or your survey responses to anyone outside the authorized research team. Again, the NSMS survey is used only for research. Nothing you say is shared


Please contact the research team with any questions about the NSMS or the survey. You can reach us toll-free at 1-855-204-5740 or via email at