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New Study: Learning What Students Actually Eat In The Cafeteria May Be Easier Than We Once Thought

A new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics by Program in Nutrition Alum Dr. Matthew Graziose et al., suggests that a quick and simple questionnaire may substitute for more involved methods of evaluating fruits and vegetables students take and eat at school lunch. When we know more about the types of fruits and vegetables students are eating in school meals, or whether they are eating them at all, we can accurately test programs and shift messages to ensure students are getting the maximum benefit. For example, this questionnaire can be used by nonprofits looking for a cost-effective way to measure program impacts on fruit and vegetable consumption at school lunch. A tool such as this one may also help policy makers direct funding and support for school lunch programming.

One frequently used method for measuring what students are eating during school lunch is to compare digital photographs of students’ trays taken prior to eating and again prior to disposal. This method is time intensive in terms of both collecting the photographs and analyzing them, which requires multiple rounds of researcher collaboration to ensure consistent interpretation of students’ trays. In this study, researchers compared the digital photography method with a simple pen-and-pencil questionnaire filled out by students. They found the questionnaire to be valid relative to the photographs in assessing the types and amounts of fruits and vegetables students are eating during school lunch.

“Beyond proving that the simplified tool is accurate, this research has hopeful practical as well as policy implications. First, we are excited at the prospect of providing resource-limited organizations with an accessible tool to measure whether their programs are changing what students eat. Second, during a time of increased skepticism and heated rhetoric around school meals, and with the rollback of many positive changes to school nutrition from the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, we hope this tool can help determine evidenced-based programming that works to get students excited about and eating more fruits and vegetables.” – Pam Koch, Executive Director of the Tisch Food Center

 

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New Study: Learning What Students Actually Eat In The Cafeteria May Be Easier Than We Once Thought

One frequently used method for measuring what students are eating during school lunch is to compare digital photographs of students’ trays taken prior to eating and again prior to disposal. This method is time intensive in terms of both collecting the photographs and analyzing them, which requires multiple rounds of researcher collaboration to ensure consistent interpretation of students’ trays. In this study, researchers compared the digital photography method with a simple pen-and-pencil questionnaire filled out by students. They found the questionnaire to be valid relative to the photographs in assessing the types and amounts of fruits and vegetables students are eating during school lunch.

“Beyond proving that the simplified tool is accurate, this research has hopeful practical as well as policy implications. First, we are excited at the prospect of providing resource-limited organizations with an accessible tool to measure whether their programs are changing what students eat. Second, during a time of increased skepticism and heated rhetoric around school meals, and with the rollback of many positive changes to school nutrition from the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, we hope this tool can help determine evidenced-based programming that works to get students excited about and eating more fruits and vegetables.” – Pam Koch, Executive Director of the Tisch Food Center

 

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