Image for produce in schools article In 2002, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) used a six million dollar grant to provide free fruits and vegetables to children in 100 public schools in four states, as well as schools in the Zuni Tribal Organization in New Mexico. Analysts overseeing the program measured the ease and cost of the implementation. Researchers found that most of the schools considered it both successful and worthwhile. The program has now expanded across the nation.

Why the Concern About Fresh Fruits and Vegetables?

Appropriate fruit and vegetable consumption is important for good nutritional health and appropriate weight maintenance. While the number of Americans who are either overweight or ]]>obese]]> is increasing, the number of people who consume the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables is dropping. In some studies, children between the ages 0f 6-19 were found to eat only half the minimum recommended daily servings of fruit. Children ages 6-11 were found to eat just over half of the minimum daily servings of vegetables recommended. And while adolescents ate closer to the recommended daily servings of vegetables, more than 1/3 of those vegetables were actually in the form of fried potatoes. Even unfried, potatoes are high in calories and lack the health-promoting vitamins and minerals that make other vegetables so nutritious.

What Are the Current Recommendations for Daily Servings of Fruit and Vegetables?

Fruits and vegetables are a great low-calorie, low-fat source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, water, and other beneficial chemicals. The table below lists the USDA recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption in children ages 6-11. Individualized information based on a child’s age, sex, and activity level is available at MyPyramid.


Daily Servings of Fruit

Daily Servings of Vegetables

Boy and girls, ages 6-11

1-½ cups

2-½ cups

What Constitutes a Serving Size?

According to the USDA, one cup of fruit or vegetables is any of the following:

  • About 1 cup of fresh fruit or vegetables
  • Two cups leafy greens
  • 12-16 carrot sticks
  • 1 cup 100% fruit or vegetable juice
  • ½ small cantaloupe
  • ½ cup dried fruit
  • ½ cup berries
  • Two medium-sized pieces of fruit

How Can I Get My Kids to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables?

The best way to get your kids to eat more fruit and vegetables is to set a good example and eat them yourself. Here are a few more tips:

  • Start early.—Introduce good eating habits to toddlers by putting tiny servings of fruits and vegetables on their plates at every meal. Even if they reject them at first, they may eventually taste them.
  • Add variety.—Keep a nice variety of cut-up fresh vegetables and fruit available for snacks, and that are easy to grab and eat.
  • Go for a dip.—Kids love to dip. Offer vegetables with a bit of low-fat ranch dip or peanut butter and serve fruit with vanilla yogurt mixed with a sprinkle of cinnamon or fruit-flavored yogurt for dipping.
  • Shop together.—Take your kids shopping with you, and let them help pick the fruits and vegetables.
  • Plant a vegetable garden.—Encourage children to help maintain and harvest it. Even if you live in the city, gardening in pots or other containers can be fun and productive, and many greens can be grown indoors during the winter.
  • Be fresh.—Engage your kids in making a fresh fruit salad.
  • Make a smoothie.—Try giving your kids a smoothie for a treat (blend together some yogurt, a banana, a handful of still-frozen berries, and a splash of 100% orange juice).
  • Make a trail mix.—Use dried fruit, unsweetened cereal bits, and nuts (for older children only).
  • Consider camouflage.—Sneak bits of carrot or zucchini into spaghetti sauce or muffins. Add berries and bananas to your weekend pancake recipe.