Background: This study evaluated an environmental intervention intended to increase consumption of the fruit serving among elementary school children participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
Methods: Children's fruit consumption was measured in two schools by observation. In the intervention school, cafeteria workers provided the verbal prompt, "Would you like fruit or juice with your lunch?" as the children stood in line in front of the fruit serving options. The control school had the same fruit and 100% juice options available, but the cafeteria workers did not provide a verbal prompt to take a fruit serving. Two variables were assessed: (1) Did children leave the lunch line with a fruit serving on their trays? and (2) Did they subsequently eat the fruit serving?
Results: The average percentage of children who took a fruit serving was 60% in the control school and 90% in the intervention school. In both schools, approximately 80% of children ate the fruit on their tray. As a result, nearly 70% of the children in the intervention school consumed a fruit serving at lunch, while fewer than 40% did so in the control school.
Conclusion: A simple verbal prompt appears to have a significant impact on the likelihood that children will take, and subsequently consume, a fruit serving as part of their purchased school lunch. If these findings are replicated, policymakers may consider adding verbal prompts to the serving policy of the NSLP in an effort to increase fruit consumption among school children.