Do school salad bars affect eating habits?

Posted at 5:38 AM, Sep 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-29 10:08:04-04

Do kids eat more fruits and vegetables when schools add salad bars in the cafeteria? That's the question researchers at Arizona State University are working to answer after receiving a $2-million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. 

"The earlier that we understand how to better promote fruits and vegetables and how to get those kids to eat those fruits and vegetables, the more likely they'll be healthier on when they're adults," said Meg Bruening who, alongside fellow assistant professor Marc Adams, is leading the study. 

Over the next four years, Bruening and Adams -- with 30 students -- will introduce salad bars to 36 school cafeterias across the Valley. They will then select students at random and weigh their lunch trays before and after eating to measure the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed. The pair will also analyze the link between how a school markets its salad bar and consumption. 

According to the CDC, 93 percent of kids in the U.S. aren't eating enough vegetables. 

"These are deficit behaviors that we're trying to improve," Adams said. 

Bruening and Adams' previous research found the placement of a salad bar in the cafeteria was directly tied to consumption. Moving the salad bar into the lunch line, instead of in a separate location, led students to eat at least four times more fruits and vegetables. 

The pair is still looking for schools willing to participate in the study.  Click here for more information.