Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

A study suggests school kids may eat healthier if they eat lunch after recess, not before, reports Poncie Rutsch:

“The researchers sent assistants to seven elementary schools in Utah, to stand by the trashcans at lunchtime and tally what students ate and what they threw away. The assistants then tallied the contents of more than 22,000 lunch trays for about four days at each school in the spring of 2011 and for about nine days at the same schools in the fall (after three of the schools had changed their schedule to have recess before lunch).

“They found students who ate lunch after recess consumed 54 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who ate lunch before recess. In addition, the number of students who ate at least one serving of fruits or vegetables jumped 10 percent when they ate after running around outside.”

Pushing for Healthier School Lunches

Six cities—New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, and Orlando—recently announced their intention to buy only antibiotic-free chicken for their school lunch programs. Mark Izeman explains why this is a big deal:

“The six cities are part of a newly formed coalition called the ‘Urban School Food Alliance.’ The overall goal of the Alliance, as I’ve written before, is to leverage their joint food purchasing power — $550 million per year — to not only help get better food for kids in lunch rooms, but also to help drive the market for affordable, healthy and sustainable food for all schools across the country.

“The New York City school system alone serves 860,000 meals per day, the largest institutional provider of meals in the nation after the Department of Defense. So when NYC and these other districts speak, food suppliers around the country listen.”

Low-Hanging Fruit

A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds that, by simply changing the cafeteria environment, “schools can encourage kids to make better choices without even changing their menus”:

“Kids were more likely to eat healthful foods when it was quieter in the cafeteria; when the food was cut into pieces, such as with apple slices; when lunch periods were longer; and when teachers were eating lunch in the same cafeteria.

“‘We saw a big jump in consumption if these factors were controlled, and they aren’t expensive things to control for,’ said Susan Gross, a nutritionist and dietitian at Johns Hopkins.”