Nutrition Standards Change Increased Fruits, Vegetables in School Meals

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From National Association of Farm Broadcasters


A change in the school meal nutrition standards in 2012 was a win for the specialty crop industry. It spurred changed in the type of foods that schools purchased, which increased fruits and vegetables. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service released data on Monday that shows following the change in standards, schools obtained more fruits and vegetables through USDA Foods and especially through USDA’s Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

While there was no clear change in the types of foods chosen from 2006 to 2012, the percent of USDA Foods entitlement funds used for purchasing fruits and vegetables from DoD Fresh rose sharply from 6.7% of total USDA Foods in 2012 to 15% in 2017. Fruit obtained through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) — mainly canned and frozen — rose from 9.4% of total USDA Foods spending in 2012 to 15.4% in 2017. Vegetables obtained from USDA’s AMS slightly rose from 2012 to 2017. As the spending on fruits and vegetables increased, the percentage spent on meat, poultry, and cheese dropped from nearly 74% in 2012 to 61% in 2017.