In today’s entry, Dr. Michael Omidi discusses how eating more fruits and veggies may be the answer we need to fight childhood obesity.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture recently conducted a study showing the effects of introducing fresh produce into school cafeterias; it is also worth noting that Arkansas has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the nation. The USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) was implemented in some of the state’s lowest-income elementary schools, and results were nothing short of encouraging.
The program offers fresh fruits and vegetables to students during the school day, to be served for free outside of normal designated meal programs. Obesity rates have already decreased from 20 percent to 17 percent in schools that offer the FFVP.
As incentive to offer the program in schools, the USDA provides the school with financial reimbursement—between $50- $75 per student. However, this cost is reduced to nothing when placed into the context of how much child obesity is costing America, estimated at $280 to $339 per student, per year.
Rodolfo Nayga, Tyson Endowed Chair in Food Policy Economics at University of Arkansas, praises the FFVP for a number of benefits: “our results suggest that the fresh fruit and vegetable program is a very cost-effective obesity prevention tool… prevention of childhood obesity is in addition to the other nutritional benefits that come from increased fruit and vegetable consumption.”
In order for a school to qualify to receive FFVP, they must provide the percentage of students enrolled who qualify for free or reduced price meals, as well as other factors including a plan of action for how the administration will integrate the program with nutrition-positive education.
School-based intervention programs like FFVP are extremely important resources for children who live in food deserts, and whose parents have no access to or cannot provide healthy meal options.
Yours in health,
Dr. Michael Omidi is the co-founder of The Children’s Obesity Fund, a nonprofit that advocates the elimination of child obesity.