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University professors share evalution of USDA program with community

Two UW-Eau Claire professors met with students and community members Wednesday afternoon in the Alumni Room of Davies Center to discuss their ongoing evaluation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The program was implemented last March in 25 schools across the state.
Economics professor Eric Jamelske and psychology professor Lori Bica have conducted surveys in 40 schools across the state since March 2006 to determine the effectiveness of the program in Wisconsin.
“We’re trying to quantify that this (program) is actually a good thing – that it actually has a measurable positive influence” Jamelske said.
According to the USDA Web site, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program was initiated in 1995. The program was made possible by an agreement between agencies of the USDA and the Department of Defense.
As of 2006, 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam participated in the program, according to the Web site.
Jamelske and Bica conducted surveys in 25 schools that currently receive funding to implement the program and 15 schools that do not receive funding. Overall, about 3,400 students were surveyed.
Surveys were conducted before the program was implemented last March. Follow-up surveys were conducted in May and June 2006 and March 2007.
The surveys included questions such as, “If you were given a new fruit at school, would you try it?” and, “Would you choose a vegetable as a snack instead of chips or candy?”
Bica said the evaluation is still in its preliminary stages, and at several points of Wednesday’s presentation both Jamelske and Bica made clear that there are many questions that remain to be answered.
Nevertheless, Jamelske said the research conducted thus far has produced positive results.
“The kids are moving to being willing to try new fruits and new vegetables if they were offered at school,” he said. “It suggests that the program is definitely having an impact.”
One area resident also voiced positive comments about the program. Mary Jo Tuckwell, director of food and nutrition for the Eau Claire Area School District, said the program has shown positive results at North High School, the only local school that currently implements the program.
“During that first two months that we offered it, the family feedback was tremendous,” Tuckwell said. “There was a lot of support for having good food available.”

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