USDA Fruit and Vegetable Program
The quality of children's diets is a subject of considerable
public concern. National data indicate that dietary intakes of U.S.
children and adolescents are less than optimal in several
- The prevalence of obesity among youth has increased
dramatically in recent years, suggesting that they are eating more
calories than they need.
- Fruit and vegetable consumption among youth is below
recommended levels. Children ages 6-19 consumed on average half the
recommended minimum of fruit servings in 1994-96.
- Children ages 6-11 consumed slightly more than half the minimum
recommended for vegetable servings. While adolescents reported
vegetable intakes closer to recommendations, potatoes, most of them
fried, accounted for more than a third of the servings.
ERS research indicates that children (as well as adults) who eat
more fruit tend to have lower Body Mass Indices (a measure of overweight).
USDA school meal programs make breakfast, lunch, and
after-school snacks that meet minimum nutritional standards
available to all children in participating schools. Low-income
children may receive meals and snacks at no price or a reduced
price, depending on household income level. National data indicate
that these meals contribute substantially to children's intakes of
several important nutrients.
The USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
encourages consumption of fruits and vegetables by making fruit and
vegetable snacks available at no cost to all children in
participating schools. The Nutrition Programs Title of the 2002
Farm Act provided $6 million for USDA to award to schools through a
Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program (FVPP) for the 2002-03 school
year. The program has since become a permanent program that
was expanded to cover selected schools in all 50 States, as part of
the 2008 Farm Bill.
ERS evaluated the pilot based on:
- analyses of administrative school records
- focus groups and interviews with school staff and parents
- a conference of pilot program managers, other pilot staff, and
See Evaluation of the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Pilot
Program: Report to Congress.
Most schools participating in the pilot considered the program
to be very successful and strongly supported its continuation.
Because the pilot only included schools that had voluntarily
applied to participate, these schools may not be representative of
nonpilot schools. Pilot sites were, however, chosen to represent a
mix of large and small; rural, suburban, and urban; and elementary,
middle, and high schools. The participating schools also included
students from diverse ethnic backgrounds and family income levels,
based on the proportion of students certified as eligible for free
and reduced-price lunches.
The 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act made the
Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program permanent and expanded it to more
States. The 2008 Farm Bill expanded it to all States, along with
the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin
Islands. However, it is available in selected schools in each State
based on need-schools in which a high proportion of students are
eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals. The current
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is
administered by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). For
information about child nutrition program participation, contact
the State agencies that administer the program.