Academic journal article Childhood Obesity

New School Meal Regulations Increase Fruit Consumption and Do Not Increase Total Plate Waste

Academic journal article Childhood Obesity

New School Meal Regulations Increase Fruit Consumption and Do Not Increase Total Plate Waste

Article excerpt

[Author Affiliation]

Marlene B. Schwartz. 1 Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT.

Kathryn E. Henderson. 2 Henderson Consulting, Guilford, CT.

Margaret Read. 1 Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT.

Nicole Danna. 3 School of Public Policy, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA.

Jeannette R. Ickovics. 4 Community Alliance for Research and Engagement, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

© Marlene B. Schwartz, Kathryn E. Henderson, Margaret Read, Nicole Danna, and Jeannette R. Ickovics, 2015; Published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. This Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.

Address correspondence to: Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Director, Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, University of Connecticut, One Constitution Plaza, Suite 600, Hartford, CT 06103, E-mail: marlene.schwartz@uconn.edu

Introduction

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides subsidized meals to more than 30 million children every day.1 Established in 1946, the NSLP has always required all lunches to meet minimum research-based nutritional requirements.2 In recent years, studies of the diets of American children and adolescents have consistently demonstrated the need for an increase in consumption of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains and a decrease in sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.3,4 In response, the federal government took action to update the nutrition requirements of school meals. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required the USDA to issue regulations to align school meal standards with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The USDA released the proposed rule in January 2011.5 Recommended changes included an increase in whole grains, new calorie limits by age group, and a reduction in sodium. Another change was to consider fruits and vegetables two different food categories, require different types of vegetables to be served each week, and increase produce serving sizes. These changes are consistent with research documenting that people consume more when presented with variety and larger portions.6-8 The 1981 policy called "Offer vs. Serve"9 was updated to address the problem that students do not consume recommended levels of fruits and vegetables. Instead of requiring students to take any three of the five meal components available, the policy was updated to require that one of the three components is a fruit or vegetable serving, thus making the inclusion of a fruit or vegetable with each lunch normative.10

The proposed new rules received approximately 130,000 comment letters and the comments were generally supportive; however, one frequently cited concern was the potential increase in plate waste.11,12 Specifically, commenters noted that larger portion sizes for fruits and vegetables and requiring students to take a fruit or vegetable would not necessarily lead to increased consumption. Commenters suggested that students may not want the additional food; they do not have enough time to eat a larger quantity of food; and younger students may be overwhelmed by the amount of food. Further, some argued that changing the regulations may lead to lower participation in the program, given that students (particularly older students) may rebel against mandates.12

The final rule was released in 2012, and the first phase of changes was implemented in the 2012-2013 school year.11 Subsequent to initial implementation of the new regulations, there were anecdotal media reports of an increase in food waste. …

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