ERS report sees divide between student consumption of fruits, vegetable
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2013 - Students in U.S. schools that were offered greater quantities of fruits and vegetables consumed more of those foods by most measures compared to other foods, according to an Economic Research Service report released Tuesday.
However, many students offered less quantities, did not eat enough fruits and vegetables, the report said, implying that additional methods may need to be considered in order to achieve the goal of having students consume foods in schools that more closely meet nutritional goals.
The report said students who were offered fruit, dark green vegetables, red-orange vegetables, or “other” vegetables in amounts that would meet a daily standard for those foods ate more of those vegetables than students who were offered amounts that did not meet the daily standard. In addition, more students at schools that met the new daily standards tried vegetables than did students at schools that did not meet the new daily standards. Among students who ate at least some of a vegetable, student consumption at schools that met the daily standard was higher and exceeded the daily standard amount in many cases.
Other individual and school characteristics which affected student intakes include:
• Younger students, female students, black students, Hispanic students, and those from a Spanish-speaking home were all more likely to eat fruit and specific types of vegetables, particularly dark green and orange vegetables.
• Students at schools that had no a-la carte options or only healthy a-la carte options had higher intakes of dark green vegetables.
• Students identified as picky eaters by their parents were less likely to eat almost all of the food types, particularly dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, and total vegetables.
• Indicators of financial hardship or food insecurity were not significantly linked to higher levels of fruit and vegetable consumption, contrary to expectations. Most schools in 2005 met the new weekly standards for total fruit and total vegetables. And while a majority of schools also met the weekly standards for specific vegetable subcategories, many schools will need to increase vegetable servings to meet weekly standards.
The report aims to inform an understanding of how school-meal participants will respond to new nutrition standards that were first introduced in the 2012-13 school year.
The report found that more than half of schools met most of the weekly standards for fruits and vegetables. Only for “other” vegetables and total vegetables did almost all schools meet the weekly standards, suggesting that many schools will have needed to increase fruit and vegetable offerings to meet the 2012 standards.
The study found 55 percent of schools met the daily fruit standard in 2005, while 87 percent of schools met the total vegetable daily standard.
“Overall, the results are fairly sanguine for what can be expected to occur in the future as the new standards are implemented more widely,” the report said. “Bivariate and multivariate estimates of the correlation between offering students enough vegetables to meet a daily, or implied daily, standard and consumption of those vegetables were positive and either significant or marginally significant for most of the vegetables examined.”
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