Serving school children a healthier mix of vegetables raises vegetable consumption

Serving school children a healthier mix of vegetables raises vegetable consumption

America’s schools are entering their second year of meeting new nutrition standards for USDA school lunches that feature whole grains, low-fat milk, more fruit, and a healthier mix of vegetables. To explore the question of whether children who are offered more fruits and vegetables will actually eat them, ERS researchers used a nationally representative survey of 242 schools in 2005 to match food intake data to that day’s lunch menus. After controlling for a number of student and school foodservice characteristics, serving more fruits and a healthier mix of vegetables did increase students’ vegetable consumption, although average amounts consumed were still small. For example, in schools that offered more total vegetables, students ate 0.38 cups of them at lunch on average versus the 0.30 cups eaten by students in schools that did not meet the total vegetables standard. Available alternatives mattered—students at schools that had no à la carte options, or only healthy à la carte options, had higher intakes of dark green vegetables. This chart appears in “Eating Better at School: Can New Policies Improve Children’s Food Choices?” in the September 2013 Amber Waves.


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