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Fruit and Vegetables in School Cuts Obesity and Saves Money

Kids are healthier and food costs are down at low-income Arkansas elementary schools.

A recent study by Arkansas researchers finds that serving fresh fruit and vegetables at school lowers obesity rates and saves hundreds of dollars per child each year. The study measured the effectiveness, in results and cost, of the US Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), which aims to increase student consumption of fresh produce in the country’s poorest elementary schools. After implementation of FFVP, obesity rates dropped from 20 to 17 percent in low-income elementary schools in Arkansas. The results were far better than predictions: in 2011, researchers estimated that it would cost up to $339 per student per year to reduce obesity rates by only one percent, but FFVP costs only $50–$75 per child per year and reduces the obesity rate by three percent. “Our results suggest that the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is a very cost-effective obesity prevention tool,” food policy economics professor Rodolfo Nayga said, an important finding given the meat and dairy industries’ heavy funding of school lunches. “Moreover, prevention of childhood obesity is in addition to the other nutritional benefits that come from increased fruit and vegetable consumption.”

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