Monday, September 13, 2010

Students' Willingness to Purchase Vegan Menu Items in the National School Lunch Program

by Jill Eckart, BA, Kathryn A. Strong, MS, RD, Darlene K. Moppert, MS, RD, Neal D. Barnard, MD

From the Florida Public Health Review, 2010; 7, 64-69.
The significance of the study in determining if offering plant-based options as part of a comprehensive school wellness policy may encourage healthful eating patterns, and can complement the benefits of nutrition education and physical activity. Whereas more research is needed to assess the long-term effects of offering plant-based options in schools, providing these items appears to be feasible and beneficial in the short term.

Offering plant-based options in school lunches may help schools meet U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrient standards by providing students with options that are low in fat and cholesterol-free. Research indicates that well planned vegetarian and vegan diets are appropriate for all ages and have certain health benefits; however, it is not clear whether students are willing to incorporate vegetarian foods into their diets. We assessed students’ willingness to purchase vegan menu items in school lunches and evaluate the nutrient profiles of vegan and nonvegan menu items offered. Vegan items were offered once per week for four weeks in elementary and middle school cafeterias located in a demographically diverse school district. Researchers tracked menu items sold, nutrients of menu items offered, and ease of vegan item preparation. Vegan options accounted for more than half of the average number of meals sold at each school on study days. Vegan menu items were lower in total fat, saturated fat, and energy and provided more dietary fiber compared with the competing foods. Food service managers indicated that vegan menu items were easy to prepare. Students are willing to purchase vegan options offered in the school lunch line. Offering vegan school lunches on a regular basis may help food service directors meet nutrient standards and improve child nutrition.

To view the full study click the following link: Vegan Menu Items in the National School Lunch Program.
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