Saturday, August 31, 2013

Comparing Apples to Oranges

I recently completed an internship with a Dietitian in charge of school nutrition in a large county in Georgia. My competencies included conducting a plate waste study. I decided to explore fruit consumption since it must be on kids' trays at both breakfast and lunch per the new government regulations. Specifically I studied pre-bagged, sliced oranges and whole apples. I observed and recorded the amount of fruit each elementary school child consumed: None, 1/6, 2/6, 3/6, 4/6, 5/6, or all on a data collection sheet.

I conducted the study over a two day period. Both days, the children were
required to take a fruit (oranges - day one or apples - day two), a vegetable or both in order to fulfill the government's reimbursable meal requirement. On day one, 65 lunches were served and 39 children selected oranges (60%). Of these 39 children that selected oranges, 23 consumed 1/3 or more (59%).

On the second day, whole apples were served to the children. 75 lunches
were served and 55 children chose apples (73%). Out of the 55 children that
selected apples, 21 consumed 1/3 or more (36%).

These results show that even though more apples were selected as the fruit choice, more apples
were wasted than oranges. Shockingly, 49% of apples were discarded whole and 39% of oranges were thrown away uneaten! That is a lot of wasted fruit.

The government's fruit and vegetable mandates for kids are great, but not if this produce is thrown away uneaten. To combat waste, I encourage schools to offer children a wide selection of fruit and vegetable options. Allowing them to select something they will enjoy instead of discard is important to curbing waste. Adults may also want to consider designating a sharing table within the cafeteria. This enables children that do not want a required lunch tray component to share it with another child rather than throwing it in the trash. Additionally, schools could administer surveys to see what produce kids prefer.