Evaluation of the Vetri School Lunch Program

The Public Health Issue: American children are notorious for eating less than the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day. At the same time, current school lunches are often laden with fried foods, bland foods and foods unappetizing to young palates. School aged children, served with lunches they do not want to eat, often skip lunch entirely or replace what is served with nutrient-poor foods. Malnourished and undernourished children often face challenges at school, ranging from behavioral issues to difficulties learning and retaining information.

The Research & Evaluation Group partnered with the Vetri Community Partnership – an organization empowering children and families to lead healthy lives through their consumption of fresh foods – to conduct an evaluation of Eatiquette, a school lunch program seeking to increase school aged youths’ consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eatiquette replaces the traditional assembly-line serving style with freshly prepared family style meals that encourage and allow students to eat as a group and try foods to which they may not have otherwise been exposed.

Our contribution to the client: The Research & Evaluation Group is conducting the evaluation of the Eatiquette project involving the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data surrounding school lunch periods. Our team observes typical school lunch and Eatiquette lunch to collect data on nutritional intake, social interactions, and lunchroom environment. We will also conduct focus groups with participating students, their parents, and school faculty and staff to determine Eatiquette’s impact. Evaluation findings will provide a foundational understanding of how the Eatiquette model impacts students and schools, including key measures of positive behavior change, such as improved attendance, decreased disciplinary actions post-lunch, orderly school lunch periods and positive communication between students, and increased intake of nutritious foods. The Vetri Community Partnership will be able to use study results to inform future program planning and scale-up efforts.