Because of a federal rule, kids throw away millions of dollars of fruits and vegetables every single day at school.
But a new study shows a simple, no-cost trick that should leave federal policy makers saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
When recess takes place before kids sit down to eat – instead of after – fruit and vegetable consumption increases by 54%.
“Recess is a pretty big deal for most kids. If you have kids choose between playing and eating their veggies, the time spent playing is going to win most of the time,” said Joe Price, an economics professor at Brigham Young University. “You just don’t want to set the opportunity cost of good behaviors too high.”
Price is the lead study author and collaborated with Cornell’s David Just for the paper in Preventive Medicine. Their sample involved seven schools in a Utah school district (grades 1-6). Half of the children in the sample qualified for free or reduced price school lunch.
Three of the schools switched recess to before lunch while four schools continued to hold recess after lunch. For four days in spring and nine days in the fall, researchers measured fruit and vegetable waste by standing next to the trash cans and recording the number of servings of fruits and vegetables that each student consumed or threw away. They also measured whether or not each student ate at least one serving of fruits or vegetables.