The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) serves nearly 30 million students per day, many of whom regularly enjoy a healthy lunch at school. However, students often do not eat the parts of the meal considered the healthiest, and there are millions more children who do not take advantage of the program at all. If students leave the cafeteria hungry or do not eat healthy foods, the program has not fully fulfilled its ambition to “safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children” (National School Lunch Act 1946). Building on the public administration concepts of street-level bureaucracy and coproduction, this dissertation investigates the role of program providers and clients to better understand implementation of the National School Lunch Program and its ensuing outcomes. I use information from interviews with 45 staff members and 96 students across six school districts to suggest the factors that adults and students think contribute to students’ likelihood to take a school lunch and to eat healthy foods. I find that what staff provide and how they encourage students to participate and eat may not fully align with what students see as valuable in the program or what will actually influence their behaviors. These findings suggest that school food service practitioners, advocates, and policymakers should consider a range of factors not always highlighted in research or discourse about school meals, but which can help explain why students do or do not eat at school and thus whether the goals of the NSLP are achieved. These findings also show that to better understand implementation of public programs, especially those requiring certain behaviors from clients, it is important to examine the activities and beliefs of both the program providers and recipients.
|Commitee:||Lake, Robert, Cuite, Cara, Poppendieck, Janet|
|School:||Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, School of Graduate Studies|
|Department:||Planning and Public Policy|
|School Location:||United States -- New Jersey|
|Source:||DAI-A 82/1(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Public policy, Public administration, Public health|
|Keywords:||Coproduction, Health, Implementation, National school lunch program, School food, Street-level bureaucracy|
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