Two weeks into the school year, only one child resisted taking the required half-cup of fruit or vegetables, said Brenda Robinson, director of foodservice for Bakersfield City School, a K-8 school district in Bakersfield, Calif.
“Out of 28,000 children, that is a pretty good average,” she said.
Eleven Bakersfield elementary schools have participated in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides nutrition lessons and fresh fruits and vegetables in classrooms three days a week.
That makes students more familiar with fresh produce items in school lunches, Robinson said.
While it is too early to tell how much more fruits and vegetables students are consuming, schools are going to be serving more produce than they have in the past, said Charles Rathbun, director of food and nutrition for Blue Valley School District, Overland Park, Kan.
Students are required to take either a half a cup of fruit or vegetables every school lunch. For the Blue Valley district, he said students can take as much fruits and vegetables they want at the “offer bar.”
Rathbun said his biggest concern is that the fresh produce is consumed.
“We’re requiring them to have this and we’re just hoping it ends up in their stomachs and not discarded,” he said. “That’s our biggest fear.”
With the new nutrition guidelines emphasizing dark green vegetables, Paul Lieb, president of Foster-Caviness Co. Inc., Colfax, N.C., said many schools are moving from iceberg lettuce to romaine lettuce. The produce distributor delivers fruits and vegetables to about 900 schools in North Carolina.
Lieb said the switch from iceberg to romaine could create a romaine shortage, Lieb said.
Child nutrition departments are embracing new ideas to help educate children about fruits and vegetables.
“We’re trying lots of different fruits and vegetables and trying some things we haven’t done before,” said Peggy Lawrence, director of school nutrition for Rockdale County Public Schools, Conyers, Ga.
She said the 19-school, 16,000-student district began its year July 30.
Red and orange fresh pepper strips, grape tomatoes, honeydews, nectarines, pears, cantaloupe, watermelon, spinach salad and Caesar salad are offered by the district’s schools.
Lawrence said that students have been positive about the new menu standards.
“I have been here for 14 years, and I’ve heard more positive comments in the last month than I have ever before,” she said.