According to a recent study conducted at two northeastern elementary schools, students are throwing away more of the healthy fruits and vegetables mandated by Michelle Obama's Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act national school lunch program than ever before.
CBS News reported that researchers from the University of Vermont scoured through hundreds of digital photographs of student lunch trays during the food selection process, as they left the lunch line, and finally, at the trash cans to find out what the children were eating and what they were wasting.
From the report:
They found that while children placed more fruits and vegetables on their trays - as required by the USDA mandates put in place in 2012 - they consumed fewer of them. The amount of food wasted increased by 56 percent, the researchers found.
The lead author of the study, Sarah Amin spoke to CBS News:
We saw this as a great opportunity to access the policy change and ask a really important question, which was, 'Does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable under the updated national school lunch program guidelines that came into effect in 2012 correspond with increased fruit and vegetable consumption?' The answer was clearly no.
The research was based on 21 visits to the schools before and after the guidelines were implemented. It is stated that about half of the children at these schools qualify for free or reduced price lunches, noting the socioeconomic factor involved. Amin admits that these findings "may not be generalizable across the country," it is a good indication of what is happening in a lot of schools with similar sociodemographic characteristics.
Other studies conducted by Harvard School of Public Health in 2014 and the UC Berkeley in 2015, both found that a majority of children in those areas ate more fruits and vegetables after the low-calorie, low-fat guidelines were instituted, perhaps indicative of different socioeconomic status indeed.
Of course, the studies could've saved a lot of time and resources had they just asked parents what their children eat.