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Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Participation in Elementary Schools in the United States and Availability of Fruits and Vegetables in School Lunch Meals

      Abstract

      Dietary intake among children in the United States falls short of national recommendations. Schools can play an important role in improving children's preferences and food consumption patterns. The US Department of Agriculture's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) aims to improve children's nutrient intake patterns by offering fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks outside the reimbursable meals programs in elementary schools that serve large numbers of low-income children. Using a nationally representative sample of public elementary schools, this cross-sectional study investigated FFVP participation patterns among schools by demographic and school characteristics. Further, the study investigated the association between FFVP participation and availability of fresh fruits, salads, and vegetables at lunch as reported by school administrators and foodservice staff. Data collected via a mail-back survey from 620 public elementary schools participating in the National School Lunch Program during 2009-2010 were analyzed. Almost 70% of the FFVP-participating schools had a majority of students (>50%) eligible for free and reduced-cost meals. Participating in US Department of Agriculture Team Nutrition Program and having a registered dietitian or a nutritionist on staff were significantly associated with FFVP participation. Based on the results from logistic regression analyses schools participating in the FFVP were significantly more likely (odds ratio 2.07; 95% CI 1.12 to 3.53) to serve fresh fruit during lunch meals. Slightly >25% of public elementary schools across the United States participated in the FFVP, and participation was associated with healthier food availability in school lunches.

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      Biography

      P. Ohri-Vachaspati is an associate professor of nutrition, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix.

      Biography

      L. Turner is a senior research specialist, Health Policy Center, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago.

      Biography

      F. J. Chaloupka is a distinguished professor of Economics and Public Health, and director, Health Policy Center, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago.