A comparative study of dietary intake of a representative sample of 651 rural school children from Chile's Metropolitan Region was carried out between two periods: 1986-1987 and 1989. Standard procedures for 24 hr dietary recall individual interviews were used to collect data. The percentage of adequacy of energy and protein intake was calculated based on FAO/OMS/UNU (1985), and vitamins and minerals according to National Research Council Recommended Dietary Allowances. Socioeconomic status (SES) was measured through Graffar's Modified Method. Statistical procedures included chi-square test, analysis of variance and Student "t" test. Between 1986-1987 and 1989 not significant difference was found for dietary intake, despite the socioeconomic conditions had improved. Most part of the sample satisfied energy and protein requirements, but approximately 1/3 of the sample presented a low energy intake; the same was observed for protein intake. Protein contributed 12.0% of the dietary energy, fat 23.0% and carbohydrates 65.0%. Animal and vegetable protein intake was found in the proportion 4:6. Dietary intake significantly differed according to age and SES, and deficiencies in calcium, vitamin A, riboflavin and niacin intake were detected in both sexes. These results could be useful for food and nutrition planning related to school feeding programs and nutrition education.