The SWITCH® Implementation Process on School Lunch Consumption Patterns and Plate Waste

      Background (Background, Rationale, Prior Research, and/or Theory): Schools provide an ideal setting to promote positive lifestyle behaviors in youth. The SWITCH® (School Wellness Integration Targeting Child Health) implementation process is designed to help schools operationalize and improve school wellness initiatives, including nutrition behaviors.
      Objective: This study examined the influence of the SWITCH® implementation process on school lunch consumption and waste, especially fruits and vegetables.
      Study Design, Setting, Participants, Intervention: Four schools from a suburban school district in Iowa were included in the evaluation, two were participating in SWITCH® and two were not. Before- and after-lunch photos of food trays were taken for every 5th-grade student participating in school lunch in both SWITCH® and control schools before SWITCH® started (baseline, 02/2017) and after SWITCH® finished (endpoint, 05/2017).
      Outcome Measures and Analysis: Trained research assistants used the “Quarter System” to compare the before- and-after- lunch photos for each person to estimate the waste percentage for individual food items on each tray. Based on the initial portion size, fruit and vegetable consumption was calculated. Linear mixed models were applied to analyze the effects of SWITCH®, gender, and food types on the waste and consumption patterns.
      Results: There was no significant decrease in overall school lunch waste (average percentage wasted across all food types) in both SWITCH® and control schools. And the school lunch waste was not significantly different between SWITCH® and control schools at either baseline or endpoint. However, students in SWITCH® schools significantly increased their fruit consumption (P = .02) by increasing their initial portion size. Contrarily, the fruit consumption from baseline to endpoint decreased in control schools, although this decrease was not statistically significant. Boys consumed fewer vegetables than girls (P < .0001). Although boys wasted fewer vegetables (P < .0001), they selected much less to start (P < .0001).
      Conclusions and Implications: By increasing the selection portion size, SWITCH® implementations may have a positive influence on the fruits and vegetable consumption in children.
      Funding: USDA.

      Supplementary Data

      The following is the supplementary data to this article: