Since 2012, school lunches have contained more fresh fruits and vegetables. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
When the federal government first rolled out its healthier school meal guidelines in 2012, elementary schoolers weren't happy. Much was written about how America's youngest pupils complained about the taste of the new meals, which contained less sodium and more whole grains and fruit than the previous lunches.
A new study reveals, however, that as the school year progressed many of these students eventually came around. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago asked administrators from 500 different schools about how their students were reacting to the new meals over the course of the 2012-2013 school year. They found that by the end of the school year, 70 percent of the elementary schoolers had come to like the healthier meal options.
"We feel like these data support the new meals and show that although change can be slow, there have not been as many student complaints as thought to be," said Lindsey Turner, the study's lead author. The paper will soon be published in the journal Childhood Obesity.
The push for healthier school lunches was heavily promoted by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her work to reduce the childhood obesity rate. The plan to make school meals healthier has sparked intense partisan debate since it's introduction, with many Republicans saying that some districts should be given a temporary waver from following the new rules because of financial reasons. The First Lady said earlier this month that she would fight any repeal of the new guidelines.
The Department of Agriculture notes that 32 million children eat school breakfasts, lunches and snacks.