Study: Kids Will Eat Healthy School Meals

A University of Minnesota study that appeared in the Review of Agricultural Economics shows school lunch sales don’t decline when healthier meals are served and that more nutritious foods don’t necessarily cost schools more to produce.

The study contradicts the findings of previous studies, which showed students preferred fatty foods and that healthier meals cost more to make, the authors said. The researchers analyzed five years of data for 330 Minnesota public school districts and found the schools that served the healthiest lunches did not see a drop in demand. The study looked at compliance with federal standards for calories, nutrients, and fats.

While serving healthier meals does mean higher labor costs, they’re offset by the lower costs associated with nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables compared to processed foods, the researchers said. However, they acknowledged many districts needed to upgrade their kitchens and train their staff to prepare healthier foods. Study authors also suggested that schools using lunch program funding for incidentals redirect that money into nutrition.

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