Press "Enter" to skip to content

In Opposing School Lunch Nutrition Standards, Noem Threatens Academic Achievement

Rep. Kristi Noem, paying attention to her phone during discussion of the American Health Care Act, 2017.03.08. Screen cap from C-SPAN3.
What? Research? Not now—I’m looking up Obama/school lunch memes….

At her hastily called, poorly organized town hall meeting in Watertown weekend before last, Congresswoman Kristi Noem used her tired opposition to Obama-era school lunch nutrition rules to dodge a question about the punishing cuts to education and other areas in the Trump budget.

Once again, Noem’s dodge-point ideology (teachers crying that kids don’t get enough to eat because of mean old Obama!) runs counter to effective public policy. New research from the University of California at Berkeley finds that schools responding to the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act by contracting with more nutritious school lunch vendors saw a small but significant increase in student test scores.

Healthier school lunches appear to boost student performance more cost-effectively than policy changes like lowering class size:

After tabulating the average price per meal in the vendor contracts—and estimating the cost of in-house school meals based on National School Lunch Program reimbursements—the study found that it cost about $222 per student per year to switch from in-house school-lunch preparation to a healthier lunch vendor that correlated with a rise of 0.1 standard deviations in the student’s test score. To put that statistic into perspective, healthier meals could raise student achievement by about 4 percentile points on average.

In comparison, it cost $1,368 per year to raise a student’s test score by 0.1 standard deviations in the Tennessee STAR experiment, a project that studied the effects of class-size on student achievement in elementary school. The paper notes that established research in the field supports the need for “lower-cost policies with modest effects on student test scores [that] may generate a better return than costly policies with larger absolute effects” [Melinda D. Anderson, “Do Healthy Lunches Improve Student Test Scores?The Atlantic, 2017.03.22].

It’s funny that Kristi’s own healthy snacks haven’t improved her legislative performance. If Kristi Noem based her policy pronouncements on research and real good for kids, she’d drop her bogus attacks on school lunches and support the positive changes promoted by the Obama school nutrition rules.


  1. Jenny 2017-03-28 07:54

    This is such a tired talking point for ‘pubs. Honestly, if they were really worried about children getting enough food in school they would start by tackling the food insecurity problem in the country that low income families face everyday by NOT cutting the SNAP program.
    But instead, Representatives like Noem are worried to hell that some overweight person might be getting more food stamps than they deserve so they better cut it.

  2. Joe Nelson 2017-03-28 08:05

    Hmm, sounds solid. Perhaps if teachers and school admins took a 1% pay cut, they could afford healthier meals. Just kidding :)

    Here’s today’s lunch in Howard, SD Public Schools:

    Meatballs & Gravy
    Mashed Potatoes

    In addition: Unlimited fruits & vegetables and
    choice of milk are included with the
    lunch meal everyday.

  3. Rorschach 2017-03-28 08:28

    As someone who occasionally joins the kids for school lunch, I have always found that there is plenty of food, and it’s good. I have also noticed how so many kids take more than they eat and throw a lot away. Phone-it-in Kristi’s trash talking of school lunches is total and complete BS.

  4. Shirley Harrington-Moore 2017-03-28 10:18

    Isn’t a dumber society what the republicans want? Either that or it’s a rule from a black man and the republicans are racist. Your choice.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-03-29 06:30

    Ror, I see the same thing when I sub. Kids aren’t going hungry; they’re throwing away a lot of food. Maybe Kristi should translate some of her “waste, fraud, and abuse!” concerns from food stamps to school lunch: come play lunch monitor and give kids skunk eye when they throw food away.

    Shirley, you could be right on both counts! I get the feeling Kristi chants her lunchroom cry just to tap anti-Obama sentiment. Maybe that’s why she’s coming back to Pierre: with no Obama to run against, she needs a new gig!

  6. John 2017-03-29 20:42

    Academic achievement & standards were rarely a concern for congresses newest college graduate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.