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USDA school meal standards positively impact low-income students' fruit and vegetable consumption
Date:3/3/2014

Ann Arbor, MI, March 4, 2014 With nearly 32 million American students receiving government-subsidized meals every day, getting children the nutrition they need is a priority for schools as well as legislators. In the fall of 2012, revamped school lunch guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) went into effect. New standards necessitate increased availability of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, require students to select either a fruit or vegetable as one of their lunch items, and mandate larger portion sizes for fruits and vegetables.

Initially, the guidelines were maligned by food service directors, teachers, parents, and students who claimed that forcing larger portion sizes and requiring students to select a fruit or vegetable they may not want to eat would lead to an increase in food waste. While mostly anecdotal, these concerns were potentially problematic if true. To find out, researchers looked at cafeteria food waste from four low-income urban schools in Massachusetts, both before and after the new USDA standards went into effect. Their findings are published in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Investigators found that the new school meal standards did not result in increased food waste, and that percentages of food discarded remained roughly the same both pre- and post-implementation of the new regulations. Investigators did discover that the new guidelines have resulted in increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, along with students eating more of their main entre.

After the new regulations went into effect, the percentage of students selecting a fruit increased significantly (from 52.7% to 75.7%), but there was no corresponding rise in food waste, meaning that there was a substantial increase in the number of students consuming fruits. For children who selected a vegetable, both the percentage consumed (24.9% pre-implementation vs 41.1% post-implementatio
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Contact: Angela J. Beck
ajpmmedia@elsevier.com
734-764-8775
Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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