Do Kids Eat More Veggies When Schools Serve Healthier Lunches?

A look at school lunch data


You can build it, but will they eat it? In a new study, the U.S. Department of Agriculture examined whether serving more fruits and veggies in school lunches is actually correlated with kids eating more fruits and veggies at lunchtime.

The study is especially relevant because new USDA rules required schools to serve more fruits and vegetables starting in the 2012-2013 school year. The USDA doesn’t yet have any data from that change, so it examined 2005 data from the schools that already met the new requirements. In those schools, kids ate, on average, significantly more vegetables than kids at schools that didn’t meet the new standards. Nevertheless, many individual kids wouldn’t eat any vegetables.

Taking a closer look at the data, the USDA found some funny and unexpected patterns. We hope data like these will help schools shape their lunchrooms to steer kids toward healthier choices:

  • Older white and Asian boys were the least likely to eat fruit, dark green vegetables and orange vegetables (Apples and carrots are not manly?).
  • Kids whose parents identified them as “very picky” ate fewer veggies.
  • Having an open campus, where kids could go buy lunch outside of school, didn’t affect the fruit and veggie consumption of kids who ate school lunches.
  • Kids who came from families that had trouble with hunger and food insecurity didn’t eat more of their lunches than other kids.


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