Fruit edging out veg in country Victoria

Fruit edging out veg in country Victoria

Healthy eating survey results provide a case for focusing on increasing children’s vegetable consumption in the home and school setting, as well as tackling barriers experienced by parents.

It appears that the eat more fruit message is working, but Victorian country kids are still not loving their vegies. Kids and parents from six rural primary schools north of Melbourne were asked about fruit and vegetable consumption in 2013 and again in 2017.

The survey was conducted by the Lower Hume Primary Care Partnership to evaluate nutrition efforts in Mitchell and Murrindindi Shires, with Victorian Department of Education and Training support.

Parent surveys showed 84% of children met the recommended intake of fruit in 2017, which was similar to 2013 (81%). However, a lower percentage of children met the vegetable consumption guidelines across both time points (12% in 2013 and 9% in 2017).

More than half the students reported eating fruit at school in 2013, increasing to 75% in 2017. In stark contrast vegetables were significantly less likely to be consumed. Only 19% of children said they ate vegetables at school in 2013. That increased to 25% in 2017, but intakes remain well below recommended levels.

In response to these findings, one primary school renamed its morning fruit break to Munch and Crunch Break and ran a range of competitions to find the students’ most popular vegetable, a Munch and Crunch vegetable mascot and new logo. Students now enjoy vegetables at morning break and see vegetables as a normal inclusion in the school lunch box.

At both survey times parents reported the same three top barriers to improving their kid's fruit and vegetable intake;

  • fussy eaters
  • the cost of fresh food, and
  • lack of parental energy and time.

Increasing children’s exposure to vegetables at school appears to be contributing to increased vegetable consumption, at least at school, but more efforts are required to promote vegetables as an easy to prepare, cost effective option to parents.

For further information please contact Chris Wasley from Alexandra District Health.

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