Association seeks to lift mandate to serve produce - The Packer

Association seeks to lift mandate to serve produce

03/12/2014 04:26:00 PM
Tom Karst

The fight is on over school nutrition standards that require schools to serve students a half cup of fruits and vegetables at every reimbursable school meal.

A new study offers evidence in support for the rule, but the influential School Nutrition Association wants Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lift that mandate when child nutrition legislation is reauthorized in 2015.

In a study released in early March, Harvard School of Public Health researchers found the updated school nutrition standards helped boost fruit and vegetable selection in a study of 1,000 kids conducted both before and after new standards took effect in 2012.

Research was conducted in four urban, low-income schools. The study found that after the new regulations, the percentage of students selecting a fruit increased from 52.7% to 75.7%. For students who selected a vegetable, both the percentage consumed (24.9% pre-implementation compared with 41.1% post-implementation) and cups per day consumed (0.13 cups/day compared with 0.31 cups/day) improved, according to a news release about the findings.

Harvard researchers said the updated standards that require schools to serve increased fruits and vegetables did not increase plate waste. Still, the study’s authors said plate waste remains significant, with students throwing away up to 75% of vegetables and 40% of fruits on their trays.

“There is a push from some organizations and lawmakers to weaken the new standards. We hope the findings, which show that students are consuming more fruits and vegetables, will discourage those efforts,” lead author Juliana Cohen, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard said in a news release describing the results.

One fresh produce advocate said the study proved the value of the updated standards.

“This study confirms what we are seeing in schools across the country, the new school lunch standards have resulted in students selecting and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables,” Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association said in a statement. “As the Harvard study concludes, there is no reason for Congress to roll back or weaken the new nutrition standards for school lunch.”

But the study didn’t completely satisfy some critics, who would like to see a broader study of the issue.

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R.J. Deakins    
Camarillo, Ca.  |  March, 13, 2014 at 09:48 AM

It is encouraging to read that fruit & vegetable consumption is up among our youth. But, will this carry with them into adulthood? Recently, at our office, we had a wide display of our fruit & vegetable line in our kitchen for our employees to enjoy, along with a box of dounts.....guess which was enhaled first?

Frank Castro    
Pleasanton, CA  |  March, 13, 2014 at 10:36 AM

I would leave the fruit and vegetable mandate and remove the grain mandate. Fruits and vegetables aren't contributing to the obesity epidemic but processed carbohydrates are. Study after study report how these carbs are stored as fat. It doesn't matter if it's whole grain rich, it is still going to elevate the blood sugar level and become fat if physical activity does not use it up quickly. The same can definitely not be said for fruits and vegetables. Natural vitamins, sugars and fiber are used more readily by the body, do not spike blood sugar and leave a full satisfied feeling in your stomach. Remove the grain mandate!!!

Jana T.    
ND  |  March, 13, 2014 at 10:58 AM

This is terrible. As a school foodsevice professional we are asked to make all these changes. Some very positive and some not so great. We finally have our students taking and eating the fruits and vegetables which they enjoy and now they want to take that guideline away. I really think if the students are throwing away the fruits and vegetables it really isn't that they don't like them its more that they want to talk with their friends and they just run out of time to eat them. Start worring about the standards of the lower sodium. Stick with this first tier this coming fall and keep it at that.

John Haughey    
Lee MA  |  March, 13, 2014 at 11:02 AM

I think it is a great Idea! But as kids get into High School, them being made to take a fruit or vegetable with every lunch, some I believe, throw it away just out of spite. The," you're not going to tell me what I am going to eat" type of thing. Encouragement would be far better!!

Oregon  |  March, 13, 2014 at 11:04 AM

I agree with lifting the mandate. If the experts quoted here worked in schools and had to deal with the costs and waste, they may have a different opinion. I see it every day. Kids have to put the fruit or vegetable on their plate, they walk through the line and straight to the garbage can. I think it is great that consumption of fruit and veg has increased, but I think that maintaining the requirement to "offer" it will create the same results. The mandate to "require" it is creating waste and making kids feel forced.

S. A. Andre    
Sturgeon Bay, WI  |  March, 13, 2014 at 11:07 AM

As a director, I see what the high school kids take every day. I still have to send kids back to get a fruit or vegetable every day. Then they say "Why? I'm just going to throw it away." We offer a great variety of fruit and vegetables each day, even before the new regs. If the student wants them, they certainly have the availability. To force them to take something that goes in the garbage doesn't make sense to me. I love seeing those kids take advantage of what we offer, but some just don't want or like fruit or vegetables. I think the younger grades are more receptive, and that is great to see. Hopefully by the time they are in high school they will all WANT to take a fruit or vegetable, not be FORCED to.

Dave Keck    
Rexburg  |  March, 13, 2014 at 11:31 AM

I believe that in a free country, we should be teaching freedom to chose. It is bad when our fantastic government starts dictating what we can and cannot eat. Just tell us to serve a fruit and veggie everyday and let it be that. Let the kids chose what they will eat, and we can help them learn what is good for to eat. That is why they are in school anyway right. Our real focus should be on helping parents teach their kids and provide for their kids. If we can fix the families in this country the rest will fall into place. Change the Mandate!

Raleigh, NC  |  March, 13, 2014 at 11:55 AM

I respectfully think something was lost in translation in this article. SNA is not asking that schools not OFFER fruits and vegetables to nutrition programs always have and always will offer fruits and vegetables as part of an appealing, nutritious meal. What SNA is asking, based on the feedback from school nutrition program operators across the nation, is that Cafeteria Managers not be required to FORCE students to take items they do not like and will not eat. Nutrition science tells us that we should never force a child to eat a food that he/she does not care for and will not eat; that practice only promotes frustrated children and food waste. It is our responsibility as adults to offer a variety of nutritious, appealing fruits and vegetables to students, encourage them to taste, and let them choose whether they will eat them. I seem to recall the concept is called "feeding with love and good sense." Thanks for hearing my comments

MaryRuth Rera    
Buffalo, NY  |  March, 13, 2014 at 12:17 PM

I have a huge issue with the SNA wanting to reduce fruit & vegetable requirements. It is counter-intuitive to everything a child should be learning as far as nutrition. Yes, I'm sure there is waste among cafeterias. But I find that much more likely to students who are used to eating processed and/or junk food for lunch. It is up to us, as adults, to help educate children on eating healthy. We can't expect them to wake up one morning & figure it out on their own. Time needs to be spent doing taste tastings, encouraging them consistently, and maybe one of the biggest things - make a better tasting lunch in general. We have a scratch kitchen in the inner-city and our students have become used to fresh produce, better quality meals and new flavors. But we've had to be patient and work with the kids closely. They'll come around. Who doesn't want to eat great-tasting food? But we have to have people who actually want to make food and not find a way to serve "healthier" processed food that has no flavor. It takes a passion for quality that will resonate and will reform school lunches for real and in a meaningful way.

Wichita KS    
March, 13, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Healthy eating needs to start at home, long before a child ever enters school. I agree with the increase of fruits and vegetables available to students. The waste bothers me too. What bothers me most ... many of the children I serve each day had no idea what alot of the fruits and vegetables even were. Having never been served them before at home, that is something that needs to be addressed at home.

March, 13, 2014 at 01:20 PM

So true!!!

Joan Steele    
Michigan  |  March, 13, 2014 at 05:53 PM

Jana, you and I are thinking alike. Keep the fruits and veggies! Good for kids! Remove the additional sodium cuts, keep whole grains to 50%

March, 14, 2014 at 11:47 AM

I agree.......we should only be serving more fresh, and/or one item ingredients, and not all this processed food......

Westport, MA  |  March, 28, 2014 at 01:46 PM

I agree with Jana and Joan....keep the fruits and veggies, as we have all worked so hard to get them to take them and now they are...look at the carbs and sodium which is what the problem is and the lack of exercise...!

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