Kids in middle schools eat more fruits and vegetables when the salad bar is in the lunch line than when it’s outside the line, according to a new study from Arizona State University.
The researchers compared the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables taken, consumed and wasted by 533 Phoenix area middle-school students. Half of the students went to schools with salad bars in the serving line before the point of purchase and half went to schools where the salad bar was elsewhere in the cafeteria, after the point of purchase.
The students went through the lunch line and selected their items as usual, and when they were done getting food the researchers weighed the fruit or vegetable items on their trays.
After lunch, the research staff collected student trays to measure fruit and vegetable waste.
More than 98 percent of students at schools with salad bars in the lunch line self-served some fruit or vegetables, compared to 23 percent of kids in other schools.
Those with salad bars in the line also consumed more than four times more fruit and vegetables than other students, and threw more fruit and vegetable items away.
“Based on our results, if schools have the space available, we recommend that schools place salad bars inside of the lunch line in the path of students before they pay,” the lead researcher stated. “Once students exit the serving line, most will not seek out additional opportunities to take fruits and vegetables because it might mean breaking away from friends or navigating busy cafeterias with short lunch periods; only highly motivated students will seek out salad bars.”
Salad bar placement usually depends on the amount of space available in the cafeteria.
“If more evidence were to suggest that placement had this big of an effect on students' consumption, that could warrant making even difficult changes to move the salad bars,” an expert said
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