C3 Insights Bulletin

SCHOOL LUNCHES OFFER MORE HEALTHY FOODS
But are kids responding to the better for you options? New research shows more movement toward BFY food

Every day in the US, 32 million children eat school cafeteria food. For many kids, this school lunch, often combined with school breakfast, accounts for half of the calories kids consume in a school day7.

Cafeterias have long had a reputation for unpalatable food. To combat this reputation, many schools have contracted with fast-food brands such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Chick-fil-A and many others. QSR brands account for 25.9% of food offered in school cafeterias8.

This, understandably, has led many teachers, parents and administrators to voice concerns about the lack of healthy choices available to kids in school. As a part of the update to the National School Lunch Program implemented by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, schools are now required to offer more nutritious foods like whole grains, low-fat milk and more fruits and vegetables9.

This has met with some resistance among students and parents who claim that the new guidelines make school lunches smaller, more expensive and less flavorful10. However, recent research from the journal Childhood Obesity has shown that kids will select fruit when it is offered to them. Kids are choosing fruit 12% more than before the guidelines were implemented, and kids who do choose vegetables are eating more of them than before11.

The takeaway here for restaurant brands is that kids are becoming used to making healthier choices for meals. This is not to say that they wouldn’t choose more indulgent foods when dining out at a restaurant, but having interesting, new fruit-flavored options on the kids’ menu could lead to more kid AND parent satisfaction with your restaurant brand.

Kids are choosing fruit 12%
more than before the guidelines
were implemented, and kids who do choose vegetables are eating
more of them than before.

7“School lunches around the world” Passion x Purpose. Sweetgreen.tumblr.com, 11/2014
8Oches, Sam. “School’s in Session for Quick Serves” QSR, 3/2012

9“USDA Unveils Historic Improvements to Meals Served in America’s Schools” USDA, 3/2012
10Yee, Vivian. “No Appetite for Good-For-You School Lunches” The New York Times, 10/5/2012
11Dale, Mariana. “More Kids Loading Fruit onto School Lunch Trays, Study Finds” AZCentral.com, 3/23/2015

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