School lunch study: Visual proof kids are tossing mandated fruits and veggies in trash
Less than a month before Congress votes on whether to reauthorize a controversial program mandating healthier school lunches, a new study confirms the suspicions of school officials -- many students are putting the fruits and vegetables they're now required to take straight into the trash, consuming fewer than they did before the law took effect.
The new study, published online in Public Health Reports on Aug. 25, is the first to use digital imaging to capture students' lunch trays before and after they exited the lunch line.
It is also one of the first to compare fruit and vegetable consumption before and after the controversial legislation -- the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 -- was passed.
After passage of the legislation and the USDA mandates it put in place 2012, the study found that students put more fruits and vegetables on their trays, as required, but consumed fewer of them and increased waste by approximately 35 percent.
"The basic question we wanted to explore was: does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correspond with consumption," says Sarah Amin, Ph.D., a researcher in Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont and lead author on the study.
"The answer was clearly no," she said. "It was heartbreaking to see so many students toss fruits like apples into the trash right after exiting the lunch line."
So the bottom line result was that kids actually consumed fewer fruits and vegetables and food waste was increased by 35%.
I don't blame them for trying, but obviously they need to go back to the drawing board now.
They found that children preferred processed fruits and vegetables such as the tomato paste on pizza or 100 percent fruit juice rather than whole varieties.
You want kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, process the hell out of them. Everyone loves pizza and spaghetti, right? Fruit juice too. Or take a page from the fast-food industry: Everyone likes sub sandwiches, right? I know I do. They've got all the food groups right there, meat, dairy, veggies and bread, and they aren't too processed either. Make the school cafeteria more like Subway.