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Keywords:

  • child nutrition;
  • fruit and vegetable intake;
  • school cafeteria;
  • 24-hour recall

BACKGROUND: Despite evidence in support of the health benefits associated with fruit and vegetable (FV) intake, national data indicate that FV consumption among school-aged children is below recommended levels, particularly among low-income children. School meals offered through the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program can provide an important contribution to child FV intake. This study examines the proportion of fruits and vegetables consumed from school meals programs among ethnically diverse, low socioeconomic status children.

METHODS: Participants (n = 103) included fourth to sixth grade boys and girls from 4 urban elementary schools in St. Paul, Minnesota serving primarily low-income populations. Research staff interviewed children during school hours and recorded dietary intake via 24-hour recall. Analysis included descriptive statistics using cross tabulations and means.

RESULTS: Average reported mean (SD) daily FV intake was 3.6 (2.5) servings, with 80% of children consuming fewer than 5 daily servings of FV. On average, children consumed over half of their daily FV intake within school. Children with low FV intake (<5 FV servings daily) consumed a higher proportion of their daily intake at school than children with higher FV intake (≥5 FV servings daily) (39% vs 59%; p = .002).

CONCLUSIONS: Child FV intake is below recommended levels. School meals provide an important contribution to the daily FV intake among ethnically diverse, low socioeconomic status children, particularly among those with the lowest FV intake. School meals programs promoting FV intake within the school environment may provide an opportunity to encourage increased FV consumption.