Lunch Tray/Photo: usda.gov

To avoid food waste, my mother had the crazy idea of putting fruits and vegetables in Jell-O brand gelatin. Oddly, the tiny slivers of apples, carrots, and celery seemed to taste better mixed in a dessert than a side dish, so I goggled it down as an after dinner snack.

Getting me to eat fruits and vegetables at school was a different story. No matter how clever the lunch ladies presented the day’s entrée on the serving line, the food just didn’t seem appealing. Entrees such as thick breaded chicken patties was paired with wilted stalks of celery.

Yuck!

Food Waste is Out of Control

I can just imagine the frustration schools have today watching students slide their tray through the cafeteria line and turning their noses up at the recycled menu options of the week. What’s put on their plate ends up in the trash.

Food waste in school lunch has been a problem for years, but schools are finding creative ways for food to find its way into students’ stomachs instead of the trash can.  About 40 percent of food in America is thrown away. Research has shown that food wasted by children is similar to the rest of the U.S. population.

Students get healthy lunches 

Nearly 31 million lunches are served to students every day through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), a federally assisted meal program that runs in public and nonprofit private schools. The program provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.

Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program must serve lunches that meet Federal meal pattern requirements. The requirements include serving food that are lower-fat dairy and have leaner proteins. Schools must also more whole grains and almost twice as many fruits and vegetables at lunch. The new standards are set in place to help children have energy to learn in class and be physically active while also help reduce their risk for obesity, diabetes, and other serious chronic diseases.  The problem with the program is that students are picky eaters and eat what pleases them and throw what they don’t want away.

Provide more healthy choices

What’ the solution to get children to eat their food? Give students more healthy choices. When students have healthy choices food is less likely to be wasted.  Here are some strategies provided by the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard on how to get children engaged to eat more of their lunch food.

●Expose students to a wide variety of fruits. Provide at least two kinds each day
●Serve fruit sliced. Studies show that students eat two-thirds more fruit that is sliced
●Place fruit at different locations. Fruit can be placed on the snack tray and by the register
●Offer both hot and cold vegetables. Some students like eating vegetables raw, while others like eating them hot
●Label the salad with creative and descriptive names next to each choice
●Incorporate a vegetable in an entrée item
●Stock white milk in all beverage coolers
●Organize the white milk so that is represents at least 1/3 of all milk in each beverage cooler.

You can see a full list of the recommendations at The Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard.

 

 

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