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

To improve consumption of fresh fruits, salads and vegetables by public school children, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) instituted the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program (FFVP) in 2008. Schools with high percentages of students that qualified for free and reduced-price school lunches were selected to participate. Schools were reimbursed for providing fruit and vegetable snacks at the range of $50 to $75 per student, per year.

A research team surveyed 620 elementary schools to see if participation in FFVP was associated with healthier foods being made available in school lunches. Data was collected during the 2009–10 school year through surveys sent to school administrators and food service personnel.

There was a strong association with FFVP participation and fruit and vegetable offerings at lunch. FFVP schools, compared to non-FFVP schools, offered more fresh fruit (79% versus 62%), more vegetables (82% versus 77%) and more salads (42% versus 35%).

Schools with USDA Team Nutrition training to serve nutritious meals that are attractive to children were more likely to be FFVP participants (36%) than others (20%). Schools with a full or part-time registered dietician and nutrition practitioner on staff, were more likely to be program participants (34%) than those without professional staff (24%).