Changing Students’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behavior in Relation to Food: An Evaluation of the School Lunch Initiative
This is the final report on the evaluation of the Berkeley School Lunch Initiative, by the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, University of California, Berkeley. The report was commissioned by the Chez Panisse Foundation.
Summary of Findings
The evaluation following 238 students as they progressed from fourth and fifth grade into middle school during the years 2006 to 2009. The goal was to determine the effects of the School Lunch Initiative on students’ knowledge about nutrition, food, and the environment; attitudes toward healthy eating and environmental responsibility; and eating behaviors. The evaluation compared students at elementary and middle schools with highly developed School Lunch Initiative components to students at schools with lesser-developed School Lunch Initiative components, over a period of three years.
Schools with highly developed School Lunch Initiative components offered cooking and garden classes integrated with selected classroom lessons along with improvements in school food and the dining environment.
Schools with lesser-developed School Lunch Initiative components primarily focused on launching the district-wide improvement in school food, but did not offer regular cooking and garden classes integrated with selected classroom lessons.
Students in schools with highly developed School Lunch Initiative components scored higher on nutrition knowledge than those in schools with lesser-developed components.
Preference for fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, was greater in schools highly developed School Lunch Initiative components.
Younger students in these schools increased fruit and vegetable intake by nearly one and a half servings per day.
Middle school students exposed to highly developed programs were more likely than those in lesser-developed ones to:
• Feel positive about eating food served at school
• Like the cafeteria Think produce tastes better in season
• Agree that eating choices can help or hurt the environment
Continued exposure to highly developed School Lunch Initiative components in middle school may sustain increases in fruit and vegetable intake.