The USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) aims to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among students in the nation’s poorest elementary schools by providing free fresh fruits and vegetables to students outside of regular school meals. A recent evaluation of the program has shown that when Elementary students across the county have access to free fruits and vegetables, students….
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Eat less high calorie, high fat vending options
- Eat more healthy meals as part of School Lunch Program
- Have better attention spans and were less hungry throughout the day
- Feel better and visit the nurse less often
- Have fewer discipline problems
The data collected shows that the FFVP increased average fruit and vegetable consumption among students in participating schools on FFVP days by approximately one-quarter of a cup per day. This is an increase of 15 percent over fruit and vegetable consumption levels. No increase in total energy intake was found. If an increase in total energy (caloric) intake had been found, it may have been a concerned that FFVP could contribute to weight gain. Instead, increased fruit and vegetable consumption appears to have replaced consumption of other, higher calorie foods.
Additional results of the data collected include:
- Fewer students purchased less healthy items such as doughnuts and candy – the availability of fruits and vegetables helps transform the school environment to promote healthy food choices.
- Many schools reported students were more likely to eat the more nutritious School Lunch Program meals and to select more fruits and vegetables as part of that meal – the pilot helped students make better choices.
- More schools implemented nutrition education activities to build on the healthy fruit and vegetable offerings – the pilot helped leverage additional resources and coordination among school and community stakeholders.
The FFVP program has transformed schools into models of healthy behavior and improved learning environments through:
- Team building that occurred among staff and students, and in some cases parents, when schools had to figure out to pick up, deliver, and hand out the fruits and vegetables as well as deal with consequences of trash and clean-up.
- Barriers were broken since the fruits and vegetables were free and available to ALL students—there were no social, economic, ethnic or academic obstacles to confront.
- Positive interactions and role modeling occurred as more student-student and student-teacher interactions were observed – with students and teachers talking about produce and related topics, and students sharing and talking to each other more than in previous years.
Jessie Coffey, RD, LMNT, Lincoln Public Schools
USDA, FNS, Office of Research and Analysis, Evaluation of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP): Interim Evaluation Report, by Lauren Olsho, Jacob Klerman, and Susan Bartlett, Abt Associates. Project Officer: Karen Castellanos-Brown, Alexandria, VA: 2011