Available at: http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/theses/1657
Date of Award
MS in Agriculture - Food Science and Nutrition
Childhood obesity has tripled over the past three decades and poses a serious public health problem. The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement aims to increase healthy eating by incorporating low-cost to no-cost alterations to the school lunchroom in an effort to increase consumption of healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables, by making them more attractive and convenient.
Our study implemented Smarter Lunchrooms interventions at two primarily Hispanic elementary schools in Paso Robles, CA. The interventions focused on increasing the appeal of the salad bars, including installation of age-appropriate signage highlighting fruits and vegetables, as well as branding of fruits and vegetables with fun age-appropriate characters. Fruits were also placed into decorative bowls to increase their attractiveness. To determine whether these changes had an influence on fruit and vegetable choice and consumption, we tracked student’s choice and intake prior to and following the intervention. Consumption was analyzed using a visual tray waste measurement to determine how much fruit, vegetable, and entrée the students ate during lunch.
Following the intervention, the proportion of children who selected fruits and vegetables increased at one school, but not at the other. Of the children that selected fruits and/or vegetables, the proportion eating the entire fruit or vegetable increased at both schools, while the proportion of students who did not eat any of their vegetables decreased at one school. There were few significant differences by grade level (1-3 and 4-5).
If easy-to-implement strategies such as Smarter Lunchrooms interventions are effective mitigators of obesity risk, larger scale efforts across populations may help stem the ever-increasing impact of obesity. Therefore, future research should identify targeted methods by which to approach younger vs. older children among diverse socio-demographic and geographic groups.