Banning other snacks is key to boosting fruit consumption.
Selling schoolchildren nothing but fruits at a snack bar increases consumption of fruits only if such a strategy is reinforced by bans on bringing salty or sugary treats to school, according to a Welsh study of more than 1,600 students at 43 schools.
Researchers from the University of Cardiff said the primary and junior schools in deprived areas that started "tuck shops" selling exclusively fruit as part of the study did not significantly increase consumption of fruit or decrease consumption of chips and sweets among 9- to 11-year-olds, compared with schools that had tuck shops selling fruit, crisps, and sweets (J. Epidemiol. Community Health 2008 May 13 [Epub doi: 10.1136/jech.2007.070953]).
But those schools with policies allowing children to bring from home only fruit as snacks significantly increased daily consumption of fruit over baseline (0.37 per day more portions), compared with schools that had no restrictions on what children could bring from home (0.13 fewer portions), the researchers found.
"Our results suggest that children are more willing to use fruit tuck shops and eat fruit as a snack at school if they and their friends are not allowed to take in unhealthy snacks," researcher Laurence Moore, of Cardiff University's Institute of Society, Health and Ethics, said in a written statement. "'This highlights the importance of friends' behavior and of peer modeling, and of the need for schools to put policies in place to back up health interventions."
The researchers said they recruited schools in Wales and southwest England with an above-average percentage of children entitled to free school lunches (national average 17%). They excluded schools that already had shops.
Of the 43 schools that agreed to take part, 23 schools started tuck shops that sold fruit only at 15 pence apiece, while the remaining schools were free to sell a wider variety of products, according to the researchers.
The researchers surveyed children about 24-hour consumption of fruit, sweets, and chips at baseline and at follow-up 1 year later.
At baseline, results from a total of 1,632 children were included in the analysis; at follow-up 1,612 children were included.
Intervention schools sold 70,000 fruits over the 1-year period of the survey, equaling 0.06 fruits per student per day, which in turn equates to approximately 1 in 4 children eating one piece of fruit per week, or 1 in 17 eating fruit every day, researchers said.
The research was funded by the Food Standards Agency, an independent department established by the U.K. government.
BY JONATHAN GARDNER
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|Title Annotation:||Clinical Rounds|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2008|
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