Friday, March 06, 2015

Study in urban middle schools finds students toss less food since new nutrition standards took effect

One of the most consistent complaints about the healthier school-lunch standards is that more food ends up in the garbage can, but a three-year study says the opposite is true, at least in urban middle schools.

"Overall, the revised meal standards and policies appear to have significantly lowered plate waste in school cafeterias," says the report of the study, conducted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut and published in the journal Childhood Obesity. It found that since the new standards have been in place, students have "consumed more fruit, threw away less of the entrees and vegetables and consumed the same amount of milk."

The researchers tracked students at 12 urban, low-income middle schools in an unidentified "urban school district" for three years, from spring 2012 to spring 2014. They analyzed students' food selection and consumption by photographing and weighing students' lunch trays.

The 2010 Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act, which requires schools to reduce salt and fat; use more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains; and limit calories by age, was implemented in fall 2012. The standards are aimed at fighting child obesity.

The study found that students ate more of their lunch entrees after the new standards went into effect, with 84 percent of students eating an entree in 2014, compared to 71 percent in 2012. It also found the share of students choosing vegetables dropped to 52 percent from 68 percent, but the students who chose vegetables ate nearly 20 percent more of them, "effectively lowering vegetable waste," says the report. The percentage of students choosing fruit "significantly increased" to 66 percent from 54 percent, with 74 percent of all students eating fruit.

The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

1 comment:

Vince Crunk said...

I substitute teach in four rural schools and am amazed everytime at how much food gets tossed - often without being touched. Nutrition standards don't help much if the kids don't eat what is served.