New school meal standards significantly increase fruit, vegetable consumption

March 4, 2014, Harvard School of Public Health News

New federal standards launched in 2012 that require schools to offer healthier meals have led to increased fruit and vegetable consumption, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. The study, the first to examine school food consumption both before and after the standards went into effect, contradicts criticisms that the new standards have increased food waste.

“There is a push from some organizations and lawmakers to weaken the new standards. We hope the findings, which show that students are consuming more fruits and vegetables, will discourage those efforts,” said lead author Juliana Cohen, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH.

Some 32 million students eat school meals every day; for many low-income students, up to half their daily energy intake is from school meals. Under the previous dietary guidelines, school breakfasts and lunches were high in sodium and saturated fats and were low in whole grains and fiber. The new standards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aimed to improve the nutritional quality of school meals by making whole grains, fruits, and vegetables more available, requiring the selection of a fruit or vegetable, increasing the portion sizes of fruits and vegetables, removing trans fats, and placing limits on total calories and sodium levels. Continue reading

CDC report shows U.S. still not eating enough fruits and veggies

Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten by children and adults is an important step toward preventing and reducing obesity in the United States and lowering the risk of developing many chronic diseases.

The newest edition of the State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables (2013) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides state-by-state information on fruit and vegetable consumption. It also presents environmental and policy indicators that measure a state’s ability to support consumption of fruits and vegetables through increased access and availability in schools and communities. Continue reading

Mandating fruits and vegetables in school meals makes a difference

March 12, 2013, Newswise

State laws that require minimum levels of fruits and vegetables in school meals may give a small boost to the amount of these foods in adolescents’ diets, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. This effect was strongest in students who had no access to fruits and vegetables at home.

With the recent requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National School Lunch Program to incorporate healthier options in school meals, the researchers wanted to find out if such laws made a difference in student fruit and vegetable consumption. Continue reading

Learning gardens seek to combat childhood obesity

Dec. 26, 2012, Colorado Springs Gazette

By Erin Prater

Give a child the proverbial choice between candy and a carrot, and he’ll likely choose candy — unless he helped grow the carrot.

The hypothesis was one of many posited by District 11 dietician Jamie Humphrey last fall as she helped to launch a large garden at the Galileo School of Math and Science.

The students proved her right.

“The little cherry tomatoes are so sweet — the kids just eat them up like they’re going out of style,” she said. Continue reading

Cheaper fruits and vegetables alone can’t save food deserts

Nov. 15, 2012, Minnesota Public Radio

By Eliza Barclay

Tens of millions of Americans can’t follow the government’s guidelines for healthful eating because they can’t afford or access enough fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes it’s because they live in what’s known as a “food desert,” places devoid of markets with a good variety of quality fresh foods.

Increasingly, researchers want to understand just how the “food environment” — where people buy food, what food is available, food prices, and how food is marketed to the consumer — has become the problem. And even as cities from Philadelphia to Chicago to Detroit mobilize to hydrate the food deserts, it’s becoming clear that even if you make fresh produce affordable, people may not buy it. Continue reading