Role of the Elementary School Cafeteria Environment in Fruit, Vegetable, and Whole-Grain Consumption by 6- to 8-Year-Old Students

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4 Scopus citations


Objective: Examine how the physical cafeteria environment contributes to 6- to 8-year-olds’ school food consumption. Design: Cross-sectional observational study. Before-and-after lunch tray photos taken with iPads to capture food selection and consumption. Setting: 10 New York City public elementary school cafeterias. Participants: A total of 382 students aged 6–8 years who ate lunch in the cafeteria on observation days. Main Outcome Measures: Fruit, vegetable, or whole-grain consumption. Analysis: Pearson's chi-square and multivariate logistic regression assessed associations between cafeteria environmental factors (time to eat lunch, noise, and crowding) and vegetable, fruit, and/or whole-grain consumption with 95% confidence, adjusted for school-level demographics and clustered by school. Results: Approximately 70% of students selected fruits, vegetables, and/or whole grains. When selected, consumption was 25%, 43%, and 57%, respectively. Longer time to eat lunch was associated with higher consumption of fruits (odds ratio [OR] = 2.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1–3.8; P =.02) and whole grains (OR = 2.1; 95% CI, 1.003–4.2; P <.05). Quieter cafeterias were associated with eating more vegetables (OR = 3.9; 95% CI, 1.8–8.4; P <.001) and whole grains (OR = 2.7; 95% CI, 2.6–4.7; P <.001). Less crowding was associated with eating more fruit (OR = 2.3; 95% CI, 1.03–5.3; P =.04) and whole grains (OR = 3.3; 95% CI, 1.9–5.6; P <.001). Conclusions and Implications: Healthy food consumption by 6- to 8-year-old students is associated with cafeteria crowding, noise, and time to eat lunch. Implementing and enforcing changes to the cafeteria environment mandated by wellness policies may reduce plate waste.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-47
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Cafeteria environment
  • child nutrition
  • school lunch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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