MyPlate and USDA’s new nutrition standards for school meals have placed greater emphasis on getting students to eat more fruit. Yet, very few students select fruit as they are going through the lunch line, and if a fruit is picked up it often goes uneaten and straight into the trashcan. Pre-slicing fruit is one simple strategy that can encourage students to select and eat fruit.
Interviews with 23 elementary and middle school students indicated two main reasons why whole fruits are avoided. First, whole fruits can be inconveniently large for younger students, especially those with braces or missing teeth. Second, older female students found it messy and unattractive to eat whole fruit in front of others.
To test students’ reactions to sliced fruit, eight elementary school lunchrooms in Wayne County, NY were supplied with a commercial fruit slicer and instructed to use it when students requested fruits. Mean sales of fruit, generated from daily production records, increased in all eight schools after introduction of the slicer, ranging from 19.0% in one school to 342.3% in another. Across schools, the average increase was 60.6%. These results were consistent with the study done for middle schools. The records indicated that schools with fruit slicers increased average daily apple sales by 71% compared to control schools.
Increasing convenience can have a substantial impact on behavior. Simply offering smaller-sized pieces that children can easily hold, bite, and chew can do a lot to increase fruit consumption in school lunchrooms.
Try using fruit slicers, aka “sectionizers,” in your school lunchrooms today! You can pre-cut the fruit before the lunch hour or, if your set up allows, you can have a staff member cut the fruit as students are going through the line.
Sarina Kumar, Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs
Wansink, Brian, David R. Just, Andrew S. Hanks, Laura E. Smith. (2013). “Pre-Sliced Fruit in School Cafeterias: Children’s Selection and Intake.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 44(5): 477-480.