The Agriculture Department rolled out new requirements in 2012 that mandated children who were taking part in the federal lunch program must choose either a fruit or a vegetable with their meals. A recent study published in Public Health has just been released researching the eating habits of students in public elementary schools. The basic question they wanted to explore was: “Does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correlate with them eating it”? What they found was interesting on several counts. Because they were forced to, children were 29% more likely to take fruits and vegetables. But what was found was that their consumption of these was actually 13% lower than before the mandate was put in place. In fact, the school was throwing away 56% more than before. The waste from each child’s lunch went from a quarter cup to more than 39% of a cup at each meal. The meal that was served at the time of the research included a protein, a mushy starch some cooked green beans and a whole apple. Sound like anything your elementary child would be interested in eating at lunch? As parents, especially us mom’s we could have saved the government a lot of money and prophesied this would happen. First, no one likes to be FORCED to do anything. Children especially. Second, school cafeteria chefs are not trained in creative cooking or even creative cutting. Their culinary skills are primarily centered around ensuring large masses of food is available. Not so much, whether it is tasty, easy to eat, and fun. If the government really wants kids to eat their fruits and veggies here are some helpful hints:
- Cut up the fruit instead of giving it whole. Little mouths and hands don’t have the room or dexterity to bite into an apple or peel an orange.
- Add some nut butter as dip so the apple will taste better
- Add some ranch dressing to the cut up carrots and celery sticks.
- Make the meal look like a mini-healthy kid meal. It doesn’t need the extra packaging, but surely there must be a way to make it look more exciting.
- Seek out recipes from healthy sources that ensure true variety, flavor and color.