Thursday, March 29, 2007

School Lunch and Obesity cost comparison

I have been vexed (hexed?) in my attempts to verify some of the secondary research numbers in my Taxing Burden of Obesity post, so I am trying to piece together my own research. Thanks for the comments from Ken who has helped me revisit the numbers. I need some more research to complete the comparison in that post. I need more work on nutrition costs beyond obesity numbers (e.g. heart disease).

For now, here are some facts from a 2005 USDA Food and Nutritions Service presentation entitled "School Meal Program Performance: What Do We Know?"(1):
  • 94,622 schools (grades K-12) participated in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
    • Over 90% of all public schools participate.
  • Almost 49 million students participate in NSLP.
    • 8.9 million participated in National School Breakfast Program (NSBP).
  • School cafeterias served 4.8 billion lunches.
  • Over 29 million lunches per day.
  • Over 9 million breakfasts per day.
  • The NSLP also provided 154 million afterschool snacks.
  • About half of all lunches and 3/4 of all breakfasts are served free.
  • The cost to USDA of providing lunches and snacks was $7.6 billion(2).
  • The cost for the NSBP was $1.9 billion(3).
If we take the numbers out a little further we can form a crude estimate of how much the NSLP costs per year: $155.10 per student who participated. For breakfasts, the cost per participant is $213.48. So, annual costs per child who actually eats school breakfast, lunch and/or snack is $368.58.

For comparison, according to the 2001 Surgeon General's " Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity": "
  • Approximately 300,000 U.S. deaths a year currently are associated with obesity and overweight (compared to more than 400,000 deaths a year associated with cigarette smoking). (4)
  • The total direct and indirect costs attributed to overweight and obesity amounted to $117 billion in the year 2000."(4)
  • 32.9% of our population is considered obese(5).
    • 32.9% = 860,182,371 Americans considered obese in 2000.
    • The 2000 U.S. population was 283 million (when cost determined)(6)
So this suggests we are spending $136 per person per year on obesity. This number does not directly include related health issues like heart disease and diabetes. More work to connect these costs will be the work of another post.

(1) Alberta C. Frost, "School Meal Program Performance: What Do We Know?", presentation, USDA, Dec. 15, 2005
(2) Newman & Ralston, "Profiles of Participants in the National School Lunch Program: Data From Two National Surveys", USDA ERS Economic Information Bulletin, Number 17, August 2006
; or USDA ERS website, " Child Nutrition Programs: National School Lunch Program", viewed March 29, 2007.
(3) USDA Food and Nutrition Services, School Breakfast Program Fact Sheet, viewed March 29, 2007.
(4) Office of the Surgeon General,
US Health and Human Services, " The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity", 2001, viewed March 29, 2007.
(5) Dept. of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention website " Overweight and Obesity: Home",
viewed march 29, 2007
(6) US Census,

1 comment:

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