Do you toss your cafeterias food in the trash? George Alden, left, and Jared Stillson eat food items from the school lunch menu in the lunch room at Draper Middle School in Rotterdam, N.Y.
Do you toss your cafeterias food in the trash?
Lexile

Becky Domokos-Bays provides food services in the Alexandria, Virginia City Public Schools. She has served her students whole-grain pasta 20 times. Each time, she says, they rejected it.

But starting next school year, pasta and other grain products in Alexandria City Public Schools will have to be mostly, whole-grain. That includes rolls, biscuits, pizza crust, tortillas and even grits.

The requirement is part of a government effort to make school lunches and breakfasts healthier. The biggest challenge is keeping fruits and vegetables from ending up in the trash.

Championed by first lady Michelle Obama, the new standards have been phased in over the last two school years, with more changes coming in 2014.

Some schools say the changes have been expensive and difficult to put in place. They want the government to roll back some of the requirements. The main concerns: finding enough whole grain-rich foods that kids like and lowering sodium levels.

School nutrition directors across the country mostly agreed that healthy changes were needed in school lunches long famous for daily servings of greasy fries and pizza. But Domokos-Bays and other school nutrition directors say the standards were put in place too quickly for kids get used to new tastes. When kids don't buy lunch, or throw it away, it wastes money.

Some of the main challenges reported by school nutrition directors:

Whole grains: While many kids have adapted to whole grain rolls, breads and even pizza crusts, some schools are having problems with whole grain-rich pastas.

Whole grains have also proved a hard sell for some popular regional items, like biscuits and grits in the South. Lyman Graham of the Roswell, New Mexico, school district says tortillas are one of the most popular foods in his area, but the whole wheat flour versions are "going in the trash."

Sodium/Salt: Schools will have to lower the total sodium levels in meals next school year and then will have to lower them even further by 2017. School lunch directors say the 2017 target isn't feasible and say kids will reject the foods.

Fruits and vegetables: The standards require every student to take a fruit or vegetable to create a balanced plate. The reaction among students has been mixed. "If the kids don't eat the food, then all I have is healthy trash cans," said Peggy Lawrence, director of nutrition at the Rockdale County Public Schools in Georgia.

Healthier snacks: Schools will for the first time this year have to make sure that all foods, including food in vending machines, meet healthier standards. While many schools have already moved to make snacks healthier, others depend on snack money to help operate their lunchrooms and are worried about a sales dip.

Critical thinking challenge: What does Peggy Lawrence mean by healthy trash cans?

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COMMENTS (44)
  • CIERRAHC-ZDE
    5/07/2014 - 01:00 p.m.

    The students as read about above are not wrong about throwing their food away.Sometimes,The food is disgusting and i completely understand the eating healthy act but most kids feel differently on the things they react the way other kids do.I strongly disagree with the living and eating act in the districts.Maybe the students should have a say so in the menu served.

  • hs27Skye
    5/07/2014 - 02:31 p.m.

    I'm glad that there is a school out there trying to serve healthy food and not just trying to meet state requirements. I think that its really cool that someone is tying to do somthing about the inadequate lunch foods that are out there.

  • CASEYF-ZDE
    5/07/2014 - 02:35 p.m.

    Schools can try to make healthier but it won't help kids be healthier if they won't eat it. Obesity is big problem in American and schools trying to make foods choices healthier is a good way to try and change that but children won't eat a food they don't think taste good. Most kids these days think healthy food taste bad. School foods aren't that great tasting in the first place but if you make it healthy it may be less appetizing to more people and not eating the food served won't help.

  • KH20deus
    5/08/2014 - 10:10 a.m.

    thank god about time there trying to fix this school lunches are always discusting some are disgusting some is okay but most of the time i just eat chips and a snapple.

  • JM17milk
    5/08/2014 - 10:14 a.m.

    That food looks gooooooooooood. Like if i was them i wouldnt be complaining. It looks super good! they got that fancy milk. Not that weird milk with the brown cow like who the heck owns a chocolate cow? They got that Trumoo too. I went on their webpage and they be havin' that good califlower. We dont even got no califlower!

  • NakoomaKewenvoyouma-Lar
    5/08/2014 - 11:45 a.m.

    When she says that she means, all the students are dumping the healthy food and the trashcans have it all. It would be hard for students to change their healthy eating, many will reject the healthy food but for me I like to eat a lot of fruits to maintain my meal. What they should do is let the students pick what they want like a my school they have a variety of food and when it comes to fruits they have to take at least two or more. The consumption of fruits is not bad in my school district because there are many students who have a lot of salad on their plates along with many fruits. Though pizza is served daily which seems not to be healthy eating pizza everyday is not a good deal in my sense.

  • colleenl-Ste
    5/08/2014 - 01:29 p.m.

    If I served whole grain pasta and the students rejected it, I would only offer that for lunch for a week straight hoping they will finally surrender and be healthy, for once. If people just keep wasting healthy foods, there will be none for those who want healthy food.

  • chicagobulls
    5/08/2014 - 02:23 p.m.

    I think what Peggy Lawrence mean is that since most of the kids reject the healthy food they are throwing it all away. All the healthy food is going in the garbage filing the garbage with only healthy food and they can only be healthy because they are only eating healthy.

  • 9BrodyW
    5/08/2014 - 07:59 p.m.

    I think this is sort of a good Idea. It is a good thing that kids have the option to eat healthier, but it doesn't matter if they don't actually take it, it's kind of wasted. And putting healthy foods in vending machines might not help still, because if there is also junkier foods available, kids will probably choose those, because they will taste better, and they tend to be cheaper. It's that way in the vending machine(s) at my school. If kids aren't eating certain foods, then they should try to find a substitute that will appeal to children, and are close to as healthy as they can get. Also, what about the kids that eat lunches they bring from home ? I usually eat food I bring from home, and only rarely eat food from school. This won't do any good if the kids aren't even getting the food.

  • 24bbecker
    5/08/2014 - 09:13 p.m.

    I believe that the government should not be regulating school lunches. As a student I see most school distributed foods go to waste. I think that instead of worrying about how healthy the food is, we should be worrying about its quality.

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