A new study has found that US school kids throw their fruits and vegetables straight in the trash.
The new federal guidelines, which require schools to make their lunches healthier by adding fruits and vegetables, have generally been praised. However responsible parties have failed to do one small yet critical thing – brand these products to their target audience.
As expected, simply giving kids and teens the option of consuming healthier foods does not make them do so, partly because no one tried to change their perception of fruits and vegetables, and partly because many kids (and even adults) admit to not really liking their taste.
It’s only been a few years since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act went into effect, but the new study proves that school kids did not even embrace the chance short term. They agree to take their obligatory fruits and vegetables, but rather than eat them, they simply throw them away.
One has to wonder what the next step is as the findings surfaced just about one month before Congress has to vote on whether or not they should reauthorize the program.
For their study, a team of researchers from the University of Vermont strategically placed digital cameras to capture images of what the kids’ lunch trays look like after they select their food, and they look like when the kids have finished eating and are heading towards the food disposal area.
What they noticed is that school kids comply with the 2012 USDA mandates and fill their trays with more fruits and vegetables, however they eat less of them. The researchers informed that school kids are now wasting 56 percent (56%) more food than they used to waste before new federal guidelines.
Sarah Amin, lead author on the study, gave a statement to CBS News informing that she and her colleagues “saw this as a great opportunity to access the policy change and ask a really important question”.
That question was whether or nor simply requiring school kids to put fruits and vegetables on their food trays, “under the updated national school lunch program guidelines that”, did in fact correspond with an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. “The answer was clearly no”.
The new study has sparked some controversy as a previous study conducted by Harvard’s School of Public Health in 2014 investigated the same issue and concluded that school kids actually started consuming more fruits and vegetables after the new federal guidelines went into effect.
This has caused Amin to theorize that neither of the conclusions can be generalized across the country. “There might be different patterns depending on different sociodemographic characteristics”.
She and her colleagues advise schools to slice fruits and vegetables (as opposed to serving them whole) in order to try to make them more enticing to school kids. Offering dips can also go a long way, and so can incorporating these fresh products into actual meals.
Amin stressed that what’s important is to make it easy for kids and teens to eat fruits and vegetables. Make them want to eat these foods.
The findings were published recently, in the medical journal Public Health Reports.
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