Kids and Veggies: Offer Them and They Will Eat

MONDAY April 20, 2009 -- Good nutrition may be more an issue of supply than demand in the poorest parts of the lower Mississippi Delta.

A new study found that children in these rural areas are open to eating more fruits and vegetables, but other research shows these products are not readily available and could become even less so if the economy continues to lag.

The findings are from two studies that were to be presented Sunday at the Experimental Biology conference in New Orleans as part of a program sponsored by the American Society for Nutrition.

In a study of an Arkansas summer camp program, children were offered fruits and vegetables as their daily snack, rather than the junk food they'd been offered in the past. More than half of the children, who were aged 5 to 12, tried most of the 16 different fruits and vegetables presented to them during the five-week program -- even though many of the children had never before had some of the food and both the children and their parents had said before the camp started that the kids would not eat the seemingly strange but healthy offerings.

However, research nutritionist Beverly McCabe-Sellers of the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service in Little Rock, Ark., noted in a news release from the conference sponsors that these foods are often in short supply in the poor, rural communities in which the children live. Convenience stores and gas stations tend to be the main food shopping locations rather than grocery stores, she said, and often fast-food restaurants where someone might purchase a salad are also hard to find.

McCabe-Sellers said that her research and experience has shown that obtaining reasonably priced, high-quality fresh produce is the major challenge in out-of-the-way areas. The problem has only grown worse, she noted, with the economic downturn and increases in food and fuel costs, which also have affected fruit and vegetable shipments used for school lunch programs.

The Lower Delta region -- including parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi -- has among the highest obesity rates in the country for children and adults, according to the news release.

More information

The Baylor College of Medicine has more about children and nutrition.

Posted: April 2009


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