USDA to School Kids: Eat Your Vegetables

[imgbelt img=school_lunch.jpg]Students who are offered more fruits and vegetables in their school lunches tend to eat more of these healthy food choices. But there are still a lot of kids who won’t touch their vegetables, especially if there’s anything else on the menu.


U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

Elementary school students get a taste of a new school lunch menu created to meet the new USDA lunch standards at the Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a lot to fret over – rural development, housing, ag commodity programs, food stamps. As if these and dozens of other programs weren’t enough, the department is also in charge of trying to get school kids to eat their vegetables.

A new study from the Economic Research Service confirms that this isn’t an easy job.

The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act increased the amount of fruit and vegetables that schools must serve in student lunches. The change is supposed to help students adhere better to the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The ERS looked at whether offering more fruits and vegetables will mean that children will actually eat more of these foods. The results are mixed.

Kids who have access to more fruits and vegetables at school do tend to eat more of those healthy foods. There’s some indication that the new school-lunch standards will contribute to better student nutrition. But there are still a lot of children who wouldn’t touch a green or orange vegetable with a 10-foot spork.

The study used 2005 data on student consumption. Researchers found that students at schools that already met the 2010 school-lunch guidelines (years before they were enacted) ate more fruits and vegetables. That’s an indication that the 2010 legislation is going to help student nutrition. But a lot of students who had the chance to eat more vegetables didn’t.

Conclusion: Offering the healthy foods alone may not be enough to change students’ eating behavior.

It seems like an obvious finding. But other parts of the study show that our assumptions on student nutrition aren’t always valid.