A recent study in The Journal of Pediatrics looked at easy, inexpensive ways to change school cafeterias in schools serving grades 7 to 12. Researchers found that simply making fruits and vegetables more attractive can help. Placing fresh fruit in a nice bowl or in tiered stands next to the cash register were effective, as was asking the cafeteria staff to say simple things to students, like "Would you like to try an apple?"
In the study, making over a school cafeteria to make it "smart" (i.e., healthier) took no more than three hours and cost less than $50. In comparing the lunchroom before and after the makeover, the researchers found that students were 13 percent more likely to take fruits and 23 percent more likely to take vegetables than before.
"Not every school has to incorporate every design element," of a smart cafeteria, Huang says. "For schools not slated for renovation, they can adopt some design features—simple things like where you place your fruit, in a nice bowl next to the cashier at checkout, that don't really cost anything."
While this makeover was aimed at influencing students' behavior, actual policies can help too. Another recent study, this one in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that kids living in states that required schools to offer fruits and vegetables as part of the meal program consumed more fruits and vegetables than those living in states with no such policies.
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