We keep hearing mixed results from the new school nutrition standards. But overall we do know that there’s still a lot of waste involved in school lunch — much of it being the fruits and vegetables we all want kids to be eating. We’re learning, though, that there is a way to make those fruits and vegetables more attractive to children.
Researchers from the Brigham Young University found that children are 45 percent more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables after recess.
In the study, the researchers studied 2,500 elementary-students from seven schools in Utah. They received fruits and vegetables at lunch as part of the National School Lunch Program. Three of seven schools were asked to move their recess periods to before lunch. The researchers then observed the garbage cans to see how much healthy stuff got thrown away.
They found that the kids ate 54% more fruits and vegetables when recess was before lunch. Additionally, in schools that made the swap, 45% more kids ate at least one serving of fruits and vegetables. They also found that these kids were also most unlikely to throw away their food. However, in schools that followed the traditional schedule of having lunch before recess, fruit and vegetable consumption actually dropped for the same time period.
Joseph Price, associate professor at the Brigham Young University and the lead author of the study, said, “Recess is a pretty big deal to kids. So if you make them choose between recess and vegetables, recess is going to win.”
The researchers explained that whenever lunch was scheduled first, kids usually threw away a great deal of their meal to have more time to play during the recess. However, setting recess before lunch made the kids hungry after their play. They also found that more kids were willing to eat extra servings of vegetables or fruits.
“Not only do kids eat more vegetables, but they throw less away. For a school trying to serve good fruits and vegetables, it’s encouraging to know you can get more in the tummy and less in the trash,” added Price.
The researchers added that apart from getting children to eat fruits and vegetables, switching recess and lunch schedules will also let schools and their districts save on costs, because there will be less wastage of food.
Less waste. More fruit and vegetable consumption. FoodFacts.com thinks recess before lunch might just be the way to go for all schools!