-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
TUESDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- Under new U.S. guidelines
on school lunches, low-income students are eating more fruits and
vegetables, according to a new study.
And concerns that much healthful food would go to waste have
proved unfounded. Still, there is substantial waste, even though
the kids are eating more fruits and veggies, the researchers
"Many low-income students rely on school meals for up to half of their daily energy intake. Therefore, school meals can have important implications for student health," said the study's lead investigator, Juliana Cohen of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.
"Overall, the new requirements have led to improvements in student diets and have not resulted in increased food waste," she added.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2012 revised its
guidelines on school lunches, requiring that students have access
to more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Under the new rules,
children have to choose a fruit or a vegetable. Portion sizes for
these fruits and vegetables are also larger.
In conducting the study, the researchers examined the amount of
cafeteria food waste in four low-income urban schools in
Massachusetts, before and after the new school lunch guidelines
The study, published in the April issue of the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that the
amount of food waste in schools was roughly unchanged once the
school lunch standards went into effect. However, kids did start
eating more fruits and vegetables along with more food from their
The percentage of students choosing fruit with their lunch rose
from 53 percent to 76 percent, but no more food was being wasted,
the researchers found. Meanwhile, the percentage of students who
selected a vegetable with their lunch rose from 25 percent to 41
percent. The study also showed the percentage of kids eating more
of their lunch entree jumped from 72 percent to 88 percent.
However, students still throw out 60 percent to 75 percent of
the vegetables and 40 percent of the fruit they are served. It's
roughly the same amount that was wasted before the guidelines were
revised, the study found.
"While the new standards make important changes by requiring reimbursable school meals to have increased quantities of fruits and vegetables and more vegetable variety, this may not be sufficient," said Cohen in a journal news release. "Schools must also focus on the quality and palatability of the fruits and vegetables offered and on creative methods to engage students to taste and participate in selection of menu items to decrease overall waste levels."
The American Academy of Pediatrics provides more information on
nutrition for children.
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