Schools provided healthy meals even during COVID
California Agriculture. https://doi.org/10.3733/ca.2023a0012
Published online November 07, 2023
COVID-related school closures had a big impact on millions of children nationwide, many of whom rely on schools for healthy meals. An online survey of 3,297 fourth- and fifth-grade students in 67 California schools studied the dietary habits of schoolchildren during the pandemic. The results showed that students who ate one or two school meals a day had significantly higher intakes of vegetables, whole fruits, and 100% fruit juice, compared to students who did not eat school meals. Specifically, students who ate one school meal a day ate more beans and orange vegetables, while those who ate two school meals a day consumed a wider variety of vegetables, including beans and orange vegetables. However, children who ate one school meal a day drank more fruit drinks and flavored milks than those who did not eat school meals. Further, students who ate two school meals consumed more fruit drinks, flavored milks, and sports and energy drinks than those who did not eat school meals. Our findings suggest that, while school meals were an important source of fruits and vegetables during the pandemic, more needs to be done to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.