Haley R. Riegel

Document Type

Master's Culminating Experience

Publication Date



Background: As the United States suffers from a childhood obesity epidemic, more attention has been given to school lunch nutrition. Federal requirements on school lunch are evolving to include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whereas other programs study ways to increase healthy food consumption during school lunch. This project categorizes fruits and vegetables by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Cornell University’s Smarter Lunchrooms school lunch categories in order to gain a better understanding of fruit and vegetable waste during school lunch.

Methods: Visual estimations of tray waste were collected across four school districts. Averages of fruit and vegetable waste within the USDA and Smarter Lunchrooms categories were compared from pre-kindergarten through high school.

Results and Discussion: Across all grades, students waste less fruits and vegetables as they age. The USDA food categories give a description for food consumption, while Smarter Lunchrooms is more useful for food production. As food service directors manage budgets, meal planning, and profit, the Smarter Lunchrooms behavioral strategies can decrease fruit and vegetable waste in USDA categories while managing a school lunch program.

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