A new study has found that school children are throwing away fruits and vegetables from their school lunches at a disturbingly high rate.
There has been an increase of 56 percent of instances of kids throwing fruits and vegetables into the garbage, according to a study was released last week by the Public Health Reports.
Researchers from the University of Vermont conducted their study in Northeast schools from 2012-3013 before and after USDA guidelines (per the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act) for healthy school lunches went into effect.
The study states: "We compared elementary school children’s FV [fruits and vegetables] selection, consumption, and waste before (10 school visits, 498 tray observations) and after (11 school visits, 944 tray observations) implementation of this requirement using validated dietary assessment measures."
The researchers took digital images of students' lunch trays after the kids picked out their food, while the children exited lunch lines and when they walked by the food disposal area at the end of lunch.
Lead study author Sarah Amin told 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."
In response to the study, the USDA said in a statement:
The facts are clear: kids are eating healthier as a result of updated nutrition standards for school meals, 95 percent of schools are successfully serving healthier meals and in 2014, schools saw a net nationwide increase in revenue from school lunches of approximately $450 million.
The USDA also cited a 2015 study from the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health that found: "Nearly 90 percent of students say they like at least some school meal options, and some evidence suggests that students’ overall eating habits may be improving as a result of the school meal overhaul."
Amin also told CBS News:
The overall goal of these guidelines is to improve children's dietary behaviors and ultimately address the childhood obesity epidemic, and so there needs to be patience to allow children time to adjust. Change takes time. This really rocks the school nutrition world. We have to have patience with this and not give up hope yet.
Sources: CBS News, University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, Public Health Reports / Photo Credit: petrr/Flickr