September 25, 2015

Requiring Children to Choose Fruits or Vegetables at Lunch Doesn’t Mean They’ll Eat Them

A recent study of schoolchildren in two northeastern schools found that while they chose required fruits and vegetables at lunch, they didn’t necessarily eat them.

The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA), trying to improve nutrition for schoolchildren, required in 2012 that kids participating in the federal lunch program choose either a fruit or vegetable with their meal. But the study, published in August by Public Health Reports, that while children took 29% more fruit and veggies than they did before the mandate, they actually ate 12% less of these items, and threw away 56% more of the fruits and vegetables than they had before. In many cases, the researchers wrote, “children did not even taste the [fruits and vegetables] they chose.”

The researchers are not giving up, however. They suggest school cafeterias consider making fruit and vegetables more appealing by “cutting up vegetables and serving them with dip,” or slicing apples and oranges rather than serving them whole.” The researchers also said their findings “support the importance of public health practitioners addressing the environmental, home, and personal factors that encourage children’s” consumption of fruits and vegetables.”

“Guidelines need to be supplemented with other strategies to enrich fruit and vegetable consumption,” one researcher told the Washington Post. “We can’t give up hope yet.”