One of the first studies to measure food consumption in schools before and after the implementation of a controversial mandate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms what school lunch officials initially feared and subsequently witnessed: students putting fruits and vegetables into the trash instead of their mouths.
The study, published online in Public Health Reports on Aug. 25, shows that although students selected more fruits and vegetables under the new mandate requiring them to take either a fruit or vegetable, they actually consumed slightly less of each. Through the use of digital imaging to capture students’ lunch trays before and after they exited the lunch line, researchers predict approximately 56 more cups of FV were thrown away each day (assuming 400 lunches served) based on the increase in average tray waste.
“The basic question we wanted to explore was if under these 2012 USDA guidelines, does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable correspond with consumption,” says Sarah Amin, a researcher in Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont and lead author of the study. “It was heartbreaking to see so many students toss fruits like apples into the trash right after exiting the lunch line.”
The study comes less than a month before Congress votes on whether to reauthorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which was the first in 15 years to update school nutritional standards. Championed by Michelle Obama as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign, a recent poll by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation shows that 86 percent of Americans support the nutritional standards required by the law.
Listen to AM 760’s Armstrong & Getty as they chat with ABC News’ Scott Goldberg on the latest revelations involving school children and the new mandates on healthier meals inside schools.