Gotham Grazer Blog

How to Effectively Integrate Produce into School Lunches

School lunches might have a variety of fruit and vegetable options, but many factors contribute to whether students will actually eat them.

 PHOTO: NICHOLAS GRINER/HOWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM

PHOTO: NICHOLAS GRINER/HOWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM

This article from The Wall Street Journal highlights five ways that schools are working to get students more interested in eating fruits and vegetables:

 

1. Visibility
Studies show that when fruits and vegetables are placed at the front of the lunch line, students are more likely to put them onto their plate. One study also observed that children who were given carrots as snacks before lunch time - when they were most hungry - were likely to finish all of the carrots.

2. Marketing
Rather than placing fruits and vegetables in large industrial trays, schools are using colorful bowls and unique display techniques to peak interest.  Fun names such as "x-ray carrots" and "turbo tomatoes" are also making a difference.

3. Tracking
This is not necessarily a direct means for improving vegetable intake, but tracking what students are putting onto their trays, and what they are throwing out, is a useful way to see which food items students prefer most.  With the proper adjustments to the menu and the lunch line set-up, tracking can ultimately improve produce consumption and help find solutions for food waste. 

4. Professional Chefs
A study performed by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed that partnerships between chefs and cafeterias - both long and short term - showed a 30% increase in produce consumption.  Bringing in a professional chef, especially one who shows students how to make yummy, healthy dishes, can get students to connect to their food in new ways.

5. Classroom Education
Food education needs to expand beyond the cafeteria.  Bringing fruits and vegetables into the classroom allows students to have a hands-on learning experience where they can become acquainted with new food items. Farm field-trips and classroom gardens are other means to get students excited about healthy eating.

 

Check out the full article to see the different case studies and research that brought about this advice!