Originally published February 3 2015
Students throw away 85% of vegetables as "healthy" school lunch program fails
by Jennifer Lilley
(NaturalNews) In an effort to provide children with healthier lunches that are in line with the latest dietary guidelines, many schools are involved with programs such as the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. Such programs stem from the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, designed to move away from unhealthy, commonly served meals such as French-bread pizza, tater tots and chocolate milk and, instead, serve smaller portions along with more fruits and vegetables.
While the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says, "National polls... show nearly 80% of Americans support better nutrition standards for all food sold in schools," it would appear that the poll didn't include what the students themselves thought.(1)
After all, not many students are on board with the changes. Just because schools are serving healthier options doesn't mean that such foods are consumed, something that is drawing concern for many health-focused officials.
New York's Canton Central School is case in point.
Why so much food is thrown away in one New York schoolThere, it's estimated that 85 percent of vegetables are thrown away. In some cases, the healthy foods are thrown away before they're even eaten.(2)
"We throw away a ton of food," said the school's Food Service Director Ella Mae Fenlong. "If we cut up 20 pounds of cucumbers, we guess that 17 pounds get thrown away. I've watched kids take their cup of vegetables or fruit they're required to take and just throw it away."(2)
A couple of key factors are thought to contribute to the students' lack of interest.
For starters, portion sizes may be too small especially for students who require more energy.
"A football player isn't getting full on seven chicken nuggets, and a lot of our students who play sports are here till 6:30 p.m.," Fenlong explained. "The kids can buy extra food, but a lot of kids can't afford to."(2)
Affordability also plays a role, leading to an imbalance among what many children eat. Those from high-income families, who are not eligible for healthy school lunches and are subject to variations in pricing rules, are not participating in these efforts as much as children from lower-income families.
Canton Central School Business Manager Judy A. Rienback says that, ever since the healthier school meals were implemented at the start of the 2013-14 school year, lunch sales have dropped 10 percent. "Our purchase costs haven't fallen. What we serve now tends to cost more," she said. "Yes, it has hurt us. Less people participate and healthy foods cost more."(2)
Rienback says that, prior to the 2013-14 school year, the district had about 57 to 59 percent school lunch participation. It's now dropped to approximately 46 to 48 percent.(2)
Around the nation, students turn to social media to express healthy meal unhappinessSuch healthy efforts are supported by First Lady Michelle Obama, known for her role in trying to fight the children's obesity epidemic. Her focus has primarily been on her Let's Move initiative, in which nutrition awareness and physical activity among school-age children are highlighted. Because of her involvement, several schools across the nation now have vending machines filled with oat bars and bottled juice rather than the usual candy bars and gummy treats.(3)
However, not many children have enjoyed these changes.
So unhappy were students that they began posting images of their school lunches with the Twitter hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama, a sarcastic reference to their displeasure. The images went viral over the past year.
For example, one student tweeted, "Michelle Obama is single-handedly ruining my life by changing school lunch and the vending machines."(3)
Another wrote, "Smuggling junk food in my purse to school because there's only healthy food in the vending machines."(3)
As obesity rates soar, healthier choices importantSuch reactions, both across social media and in school systems, are discouraging.
It suggests that people have given in to -- and are perhaps addicted to -- the lure of fast-food marketing hype and easy access to candy-aisle junk foods. The school lunches may be a change that they're not used to there or at home, but their health will thank them in the long run. That is, if they didn't throw their fruits and vegetables in the trash.
It's estimated that about one in three American children and teenagers is overweight or obese. More disturbing is the fact that, since the early 1970s, the incidence of obesity among this age group has more than tripled.(4)
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