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Competitive foods sales are associated with a negative effect on school finances

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Background It is widely presumed that competitive foods—foods offered for sale in schools in addition to reimbursable federal meals programs—provide revenue that is essential to maintain school foodservices. However, evidence is lacking to demonstrate whether competitive foods sales truly improve foodservice financial viability. Objective The aim of this research was to assess whether or not competitive foods sales have an overall positive financial effect on school foodservice finances. Design and statistical analyses This observational study used a multivariate time series analysis of annual foodservice financial data from repeated observations of 344 Minnesota public school districts between 2001 and 2008 (N=2,695). First, revenue from competitive foods was assessed in terms of whether or not such revenue displaced or complemented revenue from reimbursable meals. Second, profit from competitive foods was assessed in terms of whether or not such profit displaced or increased total school foodservice profit. Results Fixed effects models indicated small but significant negative relationships between competitive foods sales and reimbursable meals revenue, as well as overall foodservice profit. A 10% increase in competitive foods revenue was associated with a 0.1% decrease in reimbursable meals revenue (P<0.05). A 10% increase in competitive foods profit was associated with a 0.7% decrease in overall foodservice profit among schools with profitable competitive sales (P<0.10). Conclusions Study findings suggest that competitive foods can have a negative effect on school foodservice finances. Better understanding of foodservice finances could influence current approaches to improve school nutrition. Improved recordkeeping may be necessary to ensure that public funds are not used to subsidize schools' competitive offerings.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/37148/

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