Meals Matter!


If your daily participation increased by nine meals a day, what would be the financial impact of those nine meals? Take a quick guess…

About $4,800 a year?

Healthy Lunch TrayThat is correct – increasing participation by nine meals a day could generate an additional $4,800 a year. Here’s the math: 9 meals a day at a price of $3 a day for 180 days = $4860. This quick example illustrates the importance of average daily attendance (ADP) to a healthy school meal program.

A nutritious school lunch energizes children for an afternoon of learning and establishes eating patterns that will carry them into a healthy adulthood. Consistent levels of meal participation are also healthy for the school lunch program. Regular meal participation allows staff to efficiently plan menus which leads to lesser amounts of waste.

Over the 2015-2016 academic year, Ohio Team Nutrition schools and their local partners will implement a variety of strategies to increase fruit, vegetable, and overall meal consumption.

Average daily participation (ADP) is an important indicator of school lunch performance. There can be some confusion on how to calculate it. This summer, in a workshop by Susan Peterman from the Institute of Child Nutrition, we learned how to calculate this important target. Here’s what we learned:

1) To calculate ADP, first calculate the average number of reimbursable meals served per day (Average Meals). Calculate it over a period of time, typically a month, to account for variations by day of the week, student absenteeism, etc.

Average Meals per Day =

(Meals Served ÷ Number of Days) x 100%

2) Next, obtain the average daily attendance number from the school. Subtract students, if any, who do not have access to the school lunch program. For example, students who attend half-day kindergarten may be excluded from the calculation.

Student Access to School  Lunch Program = 

                  Student Attendance – Number of Students Without Access                                                               

3) ADP calculation is then the average meals divided by the number of eligible students.

Average Daily Participation =

(Average Meals ÷ Student Access) X 100%

Here’s an example:

Step 1: Calculate Average Meals

8,200 meals sold in October / 20 days = 410 Average Meals

Step 2: Calculate the Students with Access to School Lunch

650 average student attendance in October – 50 students without access =

600 Students with Access to Lunch

Step 3: Calculate ADP

410 average meals / 650 students = 63% participation

Download a blank ADP worksheet under the Resources tab on the main menu above.

ADP is one component of our efforts to measure school lunch performance. Other common measures include:

  • Fruit and Vegetable selection – calculated through production records
  • Salad bar use – calculated by observation or production records
  • Percentage of students who eat a serving of vegetables – calculated through tray waste
  • Percentage of students who eat a serving of fruit – calculated through tray waste

Check back later for new blog posts regarding other school lunch performance measures.

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