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Using 2005 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Third School Nutrition Dietary Assessment survey, this study examines the contribution of school meals to the food and nutrient intake of children in food-secure, marginally secure, and food-insecure households. The study finds that children from food-insecure and marginally secure households receive a larger proportion of their food and nutrient intakes at school than do children from highly secure households. This difference is partially explained by the higher participation rates of the insecure and marginally secure in school meal programs. The average amount of foods and nutrients consumed were similar across food security levels, except that children from marginally secure households consumed fewer calories (and thus nutrients) than both other groups. Breakfast skipping was significantly more common among the food-insecure and marginally secure children. Even at schools with breakfast programs, 20 percent of children from food-insecure and marginally secure households did not eat breakfast, for reasons that will require further study to explore.


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