Understanding the health and academic impact of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program on Georgia's elementary students
Epps, Christy Lynn Westmoreland
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The diets of young children have gained considerable attention in an era of epidemic obesity rates. Not only is the obesity rate alarming, but so is the proportion of children suffering from serious obesity-related conditions that, until now, have been concentrated in adults. The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) is a federally funded nutrition intervention aimed at increasing elementary student exposure to and consumption of fruits and vegetables in an effort to improve the diet and health of America’s children. The research sought to determine if the FFVP significantly increased the fruit and vegetable consumption of participating fourth and fifth grade students in northeast Georgia. The research further sought to link participation in the FFVP to academic success as measured by daily attendance rate, discipline referrals, and scores on the CRCT in the subject areas of English, reading, and mathematics. Dietary data were analyzed with cross-tabs and T-tests; CRCT scores were analyzed with ANOVA, T-tests, and linear and multiple regression. Participation in the FFVP was not significantly related to increased fruit and vegetable consumption, CRCT success, or student attendance. However, FFVP participants as compared to non-participants are consuming significantly less sugar-sweetened beverages, sodas, and fried potato products and are consuming the school lunch and breakfast more frequently. CRCT scores were found to be most associated with race and free-and reduced lunch percentage. Even as this research was unable to directly link two distinct areas of national interest—childhood health and academic achievement—support for the FFVP must continue. Any step that an administrator can take to positively impact the diet and well-being of students today is a step that must be taken for tomorrow.