How Fruits & Vegetables Became Popular at Rural Mississippi Schools

2019-03-12

The Journal of Child Nutrition & Management

We can all agree it can be a struggle to get students excited about fruits and vegetables. We all can also agree on the plethora of health benefits these foods provide but communicating their importance to children is hard even though school nutrition staff are creative with ways to get more students jazzed about fruits and veggies.

To help improve fruit and vegetable intake in youth and their families, a rural Mississippi school district participated in a six-week study which involved implementation of a multi-faceted produce education program. The program included tasting stations at schools along with recipes, nutrition education handouts, and preparation tools sent home with students. Researchers analyzed satisfaction data from parents/caretakers before and after program implementation.

The methodology and results of the study “Implementation and Evaluation of Farm-to-YOUth!” were published in the Fall 2018 edition of the Journal of Child Nutrition & Management.

Three school participated in the study—two control schools and one treatment school. Twice weekly, students participated in a cafeteria taste testing. All students, regardless if they participated in school meal programs or not, self-selected taste samples. The first weekly testing, students snacked on a fruit or vegetable without any seasonings or flavorings. For the second testing, a mixed dish was prepared that showcased the fruit or vegetable. At the treatment school, students received ingredients along with a recipe and kitchen tools to prepare the mixed dish at home. Students at all three of the participating schools were given nutrition education handouts and supplemental information to take home. Survey findings at the end of the six-week program period were positive. Students’ exposure to fruits and vegetables were increased thanks to the taste tests and the ability to make the recipes at home.

The study shows how it is possible to implement a fruit and vegetable program in a rural district and be received favorably among children and parents. Like other studies that have shown the importance of visibility, the results of this study support the concept that exposure-based interventions coupled with nutrition education can lead to improved acceptance of new foods.

The entire article can be viewed in the Fall 2018 edition of the Journal of Child Nutrition & Management.

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