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About The Buzz: Kids Who Eat Meals Provided By Schools Eat More Fruits & Veggies?

TheBUZZ Kids Who Eat Meals Provided By Schools Eat More Fruits & Veggies?

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

A new study on foods available in schools demonstrates that children who regularly consume meals and snacks provided by schools have higher fruit and vegetable intakes (FVI) than students who do not regularly eat at school, regardless of household income level.1

WHAT THIS MEANS

Household income impacts a family’s access to fruits and vegetables, and as a result, a child’s FVI.1 Studies have demonstrated that when families have a higher household income, children are more likely to eat a higher amount of fruits and vegetables. A recently published study has revealed that eating foods offered at school helps to even the playing field, reducing the income disparities that impact children’s FVI.

WHY THIS MATTERS

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends the following guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption for children ages 2-18:

  • Fruit: 1-2 cups every day2
  • Veggies: 1-3 cups every day3

Unfortunately, the majority of youth in the United States are not meeting these guidelines. In 2007–2010, 60% of children aged 1–18 years did not meet the USDA’s fruit intake recommendations, and 93% did not meet vegetable recommendations.4

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) operates in over 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions.5 In the 2012-2013 school year the program provided lunch to 30.7 million children on a typical school day, and 21.5 million children received free or reduced-price lunches.5 In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act helped establish new guidelines for the NSLP that required school meal programs to revitalize their offerings to enable children to consume healthier meals at schools.6

THE RESEARCH

In 2014, a study of 70 schools was conducted that revealed several promising findings about children who consume lunch at schools. The study compared students who ate school food regularly during the school months versus their intake in summer months to observe the differences in fruit and vegetable intake. Here’s what the study found:

  • Like other studies, household income was positively associated with fruit and vegetable intake, meaning that students with higher household income had higher fruit and veggie intake.
  • Among students who ate school food, there was very little difference in fruit and vegetable intake by household income.
  • Children in the lowest income category (<$10,000 - $15,000) consumed more fruits and veggies if they obtained food at school.

TAKAWAY

Parents may face many challenges when it comes to helping their children eat nutritiously, such as …

  • Kids may not want to try new foods or they’re very picky.
  • Preparing healthy meals can be time consuming or difficult.
  • Grocery stores may be far away or not easily accessible.
  • The belief that nutritious foods are too expensive to buy regularly.

Eating foods provided by schools can mitigate barriers to fruit and vegetable intake in children due to income.

 

1 MR Longacre, KM Drake, LJ Titus, KE Peterson, ML Beach, G Langeloh, K Hendricks, MA Dalton (2014). “School food reduces household income disparities in adolescents’ frequency of fruit and vegetable intake.” Preventive Medicine, 69, 202-207. View

2 “How Much Fruit Is Needed Daily?” View

3 “How Many Vegetables Are Needed Daily or Weekly?” View

4 Vital Signs: Fruit and Vegetable Intake Among Children — United States, 2003–2010. (2014). View

5 National School Lunch Program (2014). Food Research & Action Center. View

6 School Meals. (2015). View

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