Does recess before lunch lead to increased consumption of fruits and vegetables?

Do students eat more fruits and vegetables if they have recess before lunch? That is a possible explanation why one school in the Thompson School District in Colorado had less plate waste compared to the other two elementary schools studied. Rebecca Jones, Education News, Colorado , reported the school with less waste, Cottonwood Plains Elementary, schedules recess before lunch, while the other two schools have recess after lunch.

At the elementary schools, nearly all the students took the offered entrée of the day and most of them opted for the canned fruit option. But fewer than half selected the fresh fruit or vegetable of the day. The students typically left 20 to 25 percent of their entrée uneaten. But at two of the three schools, the amount of fruit served that ended up in the trash topped 40 percent, while between 32 and 44 percent of the vegetables were thrown away.

The amount of uneaten food dropped significantly at the third school, however. There, just 29 percent of canned fruit, 25 percent of fresh fruit and 24 percent of vegetables went uneaten.

Stephanie Smith conducted the plate waste survey for the school district, using a digital camera to photograph the trays of the students before and after lunch. Milk was poured into a measuring cup. If a tray was hard to estimate the leftover food was weighed. “Since the district is very good about maintaining standard portion sizes, we can get to within 10 percent in estimating how much es eaten.”

“What research has shown is that when recess is before lunch, kids are settled down,” she said, “and they’re hungry because they’ve been out playing, so they tend to eat more food.”

Milk consumption was also better at Cottonwood Plains. Only 18 percent of the milk went undrunk, versus 33 percent and 45 percent at the other two schools.

At the middle schools, nearly half the fresh fruit was not eaten and more than a third of the canned fruit. At the high schools the proportion of fruits and vegetables that were uneaten ranged between 13 and 39 percent.

 

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