Evaluating Socioeconomic Privilege: Nutritional quality in primary and secondary public schools in the United States
By McKenzie Addington-Hodge, Eli Cornblath, Kimber Guidebeck, Sho Harvey, Alexis Turner, Andrea Villafuerte, Ellen Wagner, Michael Wang,
Poverty and hunger are global issues that are prevalent in every country. The United Nations created eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to combat major global issues with a deadline set to 2015; by completion of its first goal,“[eradication of] extreme poverty and hunger,” the UN hopes to change the situation of 1.2 billion people that are living in extreme poverty. Recognizing the impact of socioeconomic status (SES), our group strived to explore some possible subtle effects of SES in the United States. Early on, our superficial evaluation of school menus showcased schools from highincome school districts as offering a greater variety of nutritious food than those from low-income neighborhoods. In order to see if this was actually the case, we identified the ten richest and poorest school districts, and selected 1 high school and 1 elementary school (N=40) in each district. We then compared the food in school menus to nutritional data presented by the United States Department of Agriculture. The quantified data was then run through an adapted nutritional algorithm, which produced a nutritional score that could then be used for comparison. Our study revealed that there was an insignificant difference between the nutritional quality in high-income and low-income neighborhoods. Despite optimistic results, we are cautious to accept that schools in relatively impoverished areas in the U.S. provide food that is nutritionally sufficient. Our caution stems from the fact that our results are drawn from a limited dataset and that it seems uintuitive that low-income school districts provide exactly the same quality food as wealthier districts. We hope to continue our study incorporating a larger number of schools in the future. In addition, we want to draw attention to the increased national efforts to encourage healthy eating, such as the food plate and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move.