Student Perception of Healthfulness, School Lunch Healthfulness, and Participation in School Lunch: The Healthy Communities Study

Marisa Tsai, Lorrene D. Ritchie, Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, Lauren E. Au

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: To increase understanding about the healthfulness of school lunch and participation, this study measured 3 school lunch variables, students’ perception of healthfulness, objective healthfulness, and participation, and examined associations between each pair of variables (3 associations). Methods: Multilevel models were used for a secondary analysis of data from the Healthy Communities Study, a 2013–2015 observational study of schools (n = 423) and children (n = 5,106) from 130 US communities. Results: Students who reported that school lunches were sometimes, often, or very often healthy ate school lunches more frequently per week (β =.71; P <.001) than did students who responded never or rarely. No associations were found with objective school lunch healthfulness. Conclusions and Implications: Student perception of healthfulness of school lunch is positively associated with participation but not with objective school lunch healthfulness. Understanding how student perception is associated with participation can inform effective communications to students to increase participation in the school lunch program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-628
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019



  • nutrition policy
  • perception
  • school lunch participation
  • school meals
  • students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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