Date of Graduation

Winter 12-16-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Brian Dowd-Uribe


This thesis examines school meal programs as a governmental intervention to improve food security among children. Further, it will examine how the global nutrition transition is affecting school meal programs and what challenges schools have met in their attempts to improve the nutritional components in meals served in schools. This thesis uses the case of San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) located in California, United States of America, as an opportunity to investigate the key challenges in the process of improving the nutritional components of their meal plans, and how they overcame this challenges. The thesis begins with a historical perspective on the nutrition transition and how the phenomenon has developed and affected the human population in general. Then, the thesis will start focusing on school meal programs worldwide, and in SFUSD in California in particular. The thesis draws principally from a close review of SFUSD documents and interview of key actors both from the school district, the school board and other related agencies familiar with the school meal program. I first give an overview of the changes made by SFUSD to improve the nutritional components of foods available in schools from 1999 until today. Then the thesis discusses what challenges the school district has faced throughout the process of improving the nutritional components of foods available in schools, and how the challenges have been overcome. The challenges include funding, making healthy foods that school children would like to eat, and overcome stigma related to consuming school lunch. I conclude with a discussion of the lessons learned from this case and how they may be applicable to other school districts.