The U.S. Department of Agriculture has good news about the state of the country's school lunch programs, but it didn't do much to broadcast it.
A study released by the USDA in April found that the Healthy Eating Index, a measure of diet quality, increased dramatically for breakfasts and lunches provided by schools during President Barack Obama's administration, a project championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.
For the 2009-2010 school year, the score for breakfast was 49.6 out of 100, rising to 71.3 by the 2014-2015 school year. In that same time frame, the lunch score went from 57.9 to 81.5.
But the department didn't issue a press release, and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said nothing about it. News of the study were first reported on The Lunch Trayblog.
Food writer Corby Kummer told Boston Public Radio on Tuesday the study flies in the face of what Perdue had been preaching — in December, the USDAcut back national school nutrition standards, citing food waste and nonparticipation.
"What's fascinating is that kids are eating it, that Sonny Perdue will say kids don't like that food, they're throwing it out" said Kummer. "Well what this new study says is, they're fine with it."
According to the study, schools that served lunches with high Healthy Eating Index scores had a participation of 60 percent, compared to 50 percent participation with low Healthy Eating Index scores. And the study found food waste remained relatively unchanged.
Kummer is a senior editor at The Atlantic, an award winning food writer and a senior lecturer at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition and Policy.