The new requirement that students take more fruits and vegetables in their school lunches has led to decreased consumption and increased waste. A study demonstrating this result was published in the Journal of Public Health: Impact of the National School Lunch Program on Fruit and Vegetable Selection in Northeastern Elementary Schoolchildren, 2012-2013.
“While these data from one geographic area may not be generalizable to other regions, we based the measures of consumption and waste on validated, objective measures,” the study said. “Furthermore, the findings are consistent with those from other parts of the country where requiring a child to select an FV also corresponded with decreased consumption and increased food waste.”
“The basic question we wanted to explore was: does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correspond with consumption. The answer was clearly no,” Amin, the lead author of the study, said in a statement quoted by the Washington Post.
The Post article explains why the healthy school lunch program is in trouble:
What they found was worrisome on several fronts. Because they were forced to do it, children took fruits and vegetables — 29 percent more in fact. But their consumption of fruits and vegetables actually went down 13 percent after the mandate took effect and, worse, they were throwing away a distressing 56 percent more than before.
The waste each child (or tray) was producing went from a quarter of a cup to more than a 39 percent of a cup each meal. In many cases, the researchers wrote, “children did not even taste the [fruits and vegetables] they chose at lunch.”
My grandmother, Lois Hazlehurst Fitz, used to say, “Willful waste makes woeful want.”
It is time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to abandon this unsuccessful experiment which has led to willful waste. Some may argue that more food going into the trash is still worthwhile because at least it will lead to increased consumption. However, since consumption has decreased, the waste is even more troubling. This is an inexcusable waste of food.
It is great to offer a nice variety of fruits and vegetables; however, it is counterproductive to serve unwanted food to students.