It is findings such as these that can lead to substantial discouragement when thinking of school nutrition.
Take a look at this week's lunch menus for a handful of Pennsylvania schools.
Although some are better than others (offering carrot sticks and slices of real fruit), the vast majority of these meals are nutritionally pitiful.
Shouldn't parents send their children off to school with the guarantee that they are being fed relatively well?
Part of the issue here is how the National School Lunch Program defines a "balanced" meal.
The basic criteria is to offer a balanced meal by including all food groups.
However, a meal consisting of chicken nuggets, french fries, peaches in canned syrup, and chocolate milk is considered "balanced" -- the breading in the chicken nuggets counts as a serving of grains, the french fries meet the vegetable requirement, and the sugary peaches are accepted as fruit.
UPDATE: Thank you to Small Bites reader Jasmine for forwarding this February 20 New York Times op-ed piece by Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters that touches on this very topic!