March 30, 2015

Study Finds Children Consuming More Fruit and Wasting Less Food Under New School Meal Guidelines

In a study recently published in Childhood Obesity, researchers found that children are consuming more fruit and wasting less vegetable and entrée portions under the new school meal nutrition guidelines.

The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act required the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update guidelines for meals served through the federally subsidized National School Lunch Program. Among the changes, the new guidelines, which were implemented at the start of the 2012-2013 school year, require children to take at least one fruit or vegetable serving at lunch. (Under the previous guidelines, fruit and vegetable servings were optional.)

Researchers at UConn’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity monitored consumption and food waste of middle school students at twelve New Haven public schools both before and after the new guidelines took effect (i.e., from Spring 2012 through Spring 2014).  They found:
  • Fruit selection increased from 53.7% in 2012 to 66% in 2014 and consumption of selected fruit also increased slightly during that time (from 72.3% to 74.3%).
  • Vegetable selection decreased from 68.4% to 51.9%, but consumption of selected vegetables increased significantly (from 45.6% to 63.6%).
  • Milk selection and consumption remained steady.
  • Entrée (i.e., grain and meat or meat alternative) selection and consumption increased significantly (7.3% and 12.7% increase respectively).
Marlene B. Schwartz, the study’s lead author, recently told the New York Times,  “This research adds to evidence that the updated nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program can succeed in helping students eat healthier.”