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How can 2 school meal program studies be combined?

Combining the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study and School Food Purchase Study

Challenge

The School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study II (SNMCS-II) and the School Food Purchase Study IV (SFPS-IV) are 2 studies funded by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Both studies are intended to assess the operations and performance of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).

Because both studies explore school food purchases and procurement practices, FNS seeks to combine the existing study plans for SNMCS-II and SFPS-IV in an integrated way, such that the data for both studies are collected simultaneously.

Solution

Westat conducted a thorough review of each study’s design to identify similarities and differences in sample design, research questions, instruments, recruiting and data collection procedures, and data processing and analysis plans.

We developed options for the combined study plan design and described key considerations for FNS, including

  • Implications for burden and response rates
  • Validity and precisions of estimates
  • Comparability to prior studies
  • Potential for new analyses

Results

After FNS selected the preferred design option for the combined study, Westat developed an integrated and updated study plan that combines the studies such that data for both studies are collected during the same school year.

The design aims to keep the burden on individual School Food Authorities (SFAs) within acceptable limits and assure high levels of cooperation and data quality.

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