Monday, September 21, 2015

Healthy school lunch program leading to less consumption of fruits and vegetables, study says

The addition of healthier requirements to the National School Lunch Program has resulted in children eating less fruits and vegetables and has created more waste, says a study by researchers at the University of Vermont Burlington and the University of California, Davis published in Public Health Reports.

Researchers, who studied children's food trays at two elementary schools in the Northeast before and after implementation of new lunch rules, found that when fruits and vegetables were required, students selected 29 percent more fruits and vegetables, but the overall consumption rates went down 13 percent, and the overall waste rates increased by 56 percent, Ariana Eunjung Cha reports for The Washington Post. Lead author Sarah Amin told Cha, "The basic question we wanted to explore was: does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correspond with consumption. The answer was clearly no."

The study, which consisted of observing 498 trays before the rules went into effect and 944 trays after the rules went into effect, found that when fruits and vegetables were optional, 15.7 percent of students chose not to get fruits and vegetables, while 2.5 percent did not select fruits and vegetables when they were required. On average, children consumed fewer fruits and vegetables (0.06 cup or about 1 tablespoon) and wasted more fruits and vegetables (0.14 cup or about 2 tablespoons) when they were required compared than when they were optional.

"Average waste increased from one-quarter cup to more than one-third of a cup/tray, with about one-eighth cup/tray more fruits and vegetables discarded, or a total of about 56 cups/day/school (based on an average of 400 lunches served/day)," the report found.

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