Children Eating Five or More Servings of Fruits or Vegetables in the Past Day, by Age Group

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Learn More About Nutrition

Measures of Nutrition on offers the following nutrition-related indicators:
* These estimates come from the California Health Interview Survey and are available, depending on the indicator, by county, age group, and/or race/ethnicity.

† These estimates come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and are available by grade level, gender, level of school connectedness, parent education level, and sexual orientation. State-level CHKS estimates, although derived from the Biennial State CHKS, may differ from data published in Biennial State CHKS reports due to differences in grade-level classification of students in continuation high schools.

‡ These data come from the California School Staff Survey and are available for elementary, middle, high, and non-traditional school staff.
Student Demographics
Food Security
Physical Fitness
Why This Topic Is Important
Children and youth need a nutritious diet for healthy growth and development (1). Proper nutrition over the life course can help reduce the risk of developing dental cavities, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, and other conditions (1, 2). Unfortunately, estimates show that about half (49%) of U.S. children have poor-quality diets (2).

Eating a healthy breakfast is an important way to promote proper nutrition (3). Children who eat breakfast have higher daily intakes of key vitamins and minerals and tend to make better food choices throughout the day (3). Eating a nutritious breakfast also is associated with improved mood, cognitive functioning, and school attendance (1).

Children in low-income households and children of color are at increased risk for inadequate nutrition, which can have long-term negative consequences (4, 5). For example, economically disadvantaged children tend to consume more sugar-sweetened beverages, which contribute to obesity and increase the risk for chronic diseases later in life (5). In addition, food insecurity (limited or uncertain access to adequate food) can adversely affect children's cognitive development and academic performance (6). More than 1 million children in California—and nearly 11 million nationwide—live in households experiencing food insecurity (6).
For more information, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Childhood nutrition facts. Retrieved from:

2.  Liu, J., et al. (2021). Trends in food sources and diet quality among U.S. children and adults, 2003-2018. JAMA Network Open, 4(4), e215262. Retrieved from:

3.  Giménez-Legarre, N., et al. (2020). Breakfast characteristics and its association with daily micronutrients intake in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 12(10), 3201. Retrieved from:

4.  Peltz, A., & Garg, A. (2019). Food insecurity and health care use. Pediatrics, 144(4), e20190347. Retrieved from:

5.  Muth, N. D., et al. (2019). Public policies to reduce sugary drink consumption in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 143(4), e20190282. Retrieved from:

6.  Feeding America. (n.d.). Map the meal gap: Child food insecurity in the United States. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
In 2017-2019, an estimated 66% of California 7th graders, 60% of 9th graders, 58% of 11th graders, and 50% of students in non-traditional programs had eaten breakfast in the past day. Across grade levels statewide, boys were more likely to have had breakfast than girls. In general, estimates of eating breakfast are lowest for students with low levels of school connectedness and those whose parents did not finish high school (46% and 54%, respectively, in 2017-2019), and increase as levels of school connectedness and parent education improve. In 2017-2019, fewer than 50% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students in California had eaten breakfast in the past day, compared with more than 60% of students in other groups.

According to estimates from a 2017-2018 survey of parents and teens, around one in four California children ages 2-17 had eaten at least five servings of fruits and vegetables in the past day. Estimates from the same survey in 2015-2016 showed 40% of children drinking at least one sugar-sweetened beverage in the past day and 43% eating fast food at least twice in the past week, with wide variation at the county level—from fewer than 12% to more than 60% across regions with data. Sugary drink consumption also varied by age and race/ethnicity. Statewide, among youth ages 12-17, an estimated 58% had drunk sugar-sweetened beverages in the previous day, whereas estimates for younger children were lower, at 35% for ages 6-11 and 22% for ages 2-5. Among groups with data, an estimated 66% of multiracial and 64% of Hispanic/Latino youth ages 12-17 had consumed sugary beverages in the past day, compared with African American/black youth at 55%, white youth at 53%, and Asian youth at 43%.
Policy Implications
Nutrition during childhood, beginning in the prenatal stage, influences lifelong health (1). The childhood years also are a critical time for establishing long-term dietary habits. Children and youth need a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as adequate water (2). Health experts also recommend minimizing consumption of solid fats, sodium, and added sugars, which are linked to negative health outcomes (2). Ensuring that children have access to nutritious food and learn to make healthy choices requires effort from multiple sectors, including local, state, and federal government, schools, health care, communities, businesses, and others (1, 2, 3, 4).

Schools are well-positioned to educate children about nutrition and promote healthy habits (2). Poor diets and food insecurity have been shown to substantially affect student achievement, making nutrition a priority for school performance (2). Children in poverty and children of color are particularly vulnerable to poor nutrition (4, 5). Federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or CalFresh in California) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program offer vital support for low-income children and families, although many of these programs continue to be underutilized in California (3, 6). Policymakers can work to reduce poverty and economic inequities, preserve and strengthen food assistance programs, and expand access to nutritious, affordable foods in low-income communities (4, 7).

Policy and practice options to improve nutrition for children include:
  • Promoting strategies to ensure adequate nutrition for infants, toddlers, and pregnant and breastfeeding women; for example, assuring that health care providers are trained on nutrition issues and are able to refer families to appropriate support services (1)
  • Continuing to increase participation in food assistance programs—such as WIC and CalFresh—by improving integration and linkages across nutrition, health care, and other safety net programs in order to streamline enrollment and service delivery (3, 6)
  • Maintaining and strengthening recent state and federal legislation to provide healthy meals for low-income children in child care; as part of this, reducing administrative burden and providing adequate training and support to increase child care provider participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), especially in underserved areas (8, 9)
  • Increasing awareness among school stakeholders—leaders, teachers, students, families, community members, and others—about the connections between nutrition, weight, cognitive functioning, academic performance, and school funding; this includes incorporating nutrition education into health curricula for students (2, 10)
  • Ensuring that California's Free School Meals for All Act of 2021 is implemented effectively at the local level so that all K-12 students receive healthy school meals (2, 11)
  • Continuing to promote robust nutrition programs for low-income children when school is out or when schools are closed due to emergencies; as part of this, ensuring that families are aware of such programs and that meals are provided in safe and welcoming environments, especially for immigrant families (11)
  • Promoting cross-sector, comprehensive strategies to reduce consumption of sugary beverages and increase the availability of healthy, affordable food options for children and families, particularly in low-income areas and communities of color; for example, attracting retailers of nutritious food (e.g., grocery stores) to locate in under-resourced areas, and advocating for restaurants to remove sugary drinks from children's menus (4, 5)
  • Continuing efforts to reduce marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children and adolescents, particularly advertising that disproportionately targets youth of color (5, 12)
  • Supporting action at the federal level to reduce child food insecurity, including strengthening and expanding nutrition assistance programs and improving coordination across federal agencies (7)
For more information, see the Research & Links section on or visit Nourish California and Food Research and Action Center. Also see Policy Implications on under Food Security and Family Income and Poverty.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Schwarzenberg, S. J., et al. (2018). Advocacy for improving nutrition in the first 1000 days to support childhood development and adult health. Pediatrics, 141(2), e20173716. Retrieved from:

2.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). CDC healthy schools: Childhood nutrition facts; Dietary behaviors and academic grades; Nutrition education in U.S. schools. Retrieved from:

3.  Danielson, C., et al. (2020). The importance of CalFresh and CalWORKs in children's early years. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from:

4.  PolicyLink. (n.d.). Equitable food systems resource guide. Retrieved from:

5.  Muth, N. D., et al. (2019). Public policies to reduce sugary drink consumption in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 143(4), e20190282. Retrieved from:

6.  California WIC Association. (2021). Linking WIC for health equity: Expanding access to WIC through horizontal integration. Retrieved from:

7.  Food Research and Action Center. (n.d.). Action center. Retrieved from:

8.  Cannon, M. (2021). State funding for child care meals finally realized. Nourish California. Retrieved from:

9.  Marshall, S. (2020). CACFP is moving from CDE to CDSS: Let's make sure we don't get lost in transition. CACFP Roundtable. Retrieved from:

10.  California Department of Education. (2021). Nutrition education in California schools. Retrieved from:

11.  Free School Meals for All Act of 2021, Cal. S. B. 364 (2021-2022). Retrieved from:

12.  Harris, J. L., et al. (2020). Sugary drink f.a.c.t.s. 2020. Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
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More Data Sources For Nutrition