An Investigation of the Los Angeles Summer Food Service Program and its Influence on the Dietary Habits of Children

Michael Fox


The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a free summer lunch program designed to provide nutritious meals to children. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relative effect of SFSP on the daily diets of children in lowincome Los Angeles City neighborhoods. Surveys were distributed to parents with children participating in SFSP (experimental) and to parents with children not participating in SFSP (control) at five SFSP recreation centers. BMI was not different between groups (P>0.05) and 34.4% of all children were considered obese according to CDC BMI-for-age growth charts. Although 93.0% of control subjects indicated they would place their child in a free summer lunch program, 80.7% were unaware SFSP existed. In addition, 57.1% of experimental parents are somewhat or very dependent on SFSP to provide their child a nutritious meal; yet, 35.3% disagreed that the food served by SFSP is healthier than food served at home. The daily servings of fruits and vegetables was not different between groups (P>0.05). Furthermore, 42.3% of all children consume only 1-2 servings/day. According to 43.1% of all subjects, fruits and vegetables are cost prohibitive at least some of the time, and fresh produce was found to be available at fewer than 30% of food establishments within a 2 block perimeter of SFSP sites. Frequency of fast food and soda consumption was not different between groups (P>0.05), but was greater in the summer compared to the school year (P<0.05). In conclusion, lack of awareness minimizes the impact of SFSP in high demand LA neighborhoods and SFSP fails to improve the dietary habits of the children it serves.


SFSP, Nutrition, Free Lunch

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