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Surprising Science

Kids Eat More Vegetables in Schools that Schedule Recess Before Lunch

A new study shows that the American school tradition of scheduling lunch before recess may be putting more fruits and veggies in the trash. Researchers have found swapping the order will reduce the waste of healthy foods.

Schools participating in the National School Lunch Plan are required to give students one vegetable and one fruit side. But this policy may be going to waste as Libby Nelson of Vox reports that a Harvard study showed kids threw away 60 percent of their veggies and 40 percent of their fruit.

It would seem you can give kids the food to help them lead a healthy life, but you cannot make them eat. However, a recent study has a simple solution to boost eating habits: make lunch follow recess. The research was published in the journal Preventative Medicine, and looked at seven schools in the Utah school district. Three switched their schedules so recess would come before lunch, while the other four kept their traditional timetables—lunch then recess.

Researchers would stand beside the trashcans, counting how many servings of fruits and vegetables were going in the waste bins. The receptacles revealed veggie and fruit consumption went up 54 percent in schools that had recess before lunch while there was no change in schools that had lunch before recess. Co-author David Just, a PhD at Cornell University, explained in a press release the flaw in the American school tradition: 

“Recess is often held after lunch so children hurry to ‘finish’ so that they can go play–this results in wasted fruits and vegetables. However, we found that if recess is held before lunch, students come to lunch with healthy appetites and less urgency and are more likely to finish their fruits and vegetables.”

Researchers have found a no-cost solution for these schools that rely on these government-funded lunch plans to get their students to eat better. A solution could also lead to students feeling fuller the rest of the day, which could result in increased academic performance and long-term health.

Read more at Vox

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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