Saturday, December 20, 2014

More healthful school lunches is good, but waste must be avoided


Proving that public school lunch menus are an exercise in not being able to please all the people all the time, an effort to improve nutrition over the past school year has been controversial.

But public schools are right to serve mostly healthy foods for school lunches. Always a target for scrutiny, school lunches would draw far more wrath from critics if they were burgers, fries and potato chips every day. Schools need to set a good example, not a bad one.

The problem is that choosing healthy dishes for school lunches isn’t always supported by a nutritious diet in the home. And we all know how kids can be picky eaters – if we allow them.

So even as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has enhanced the nutritional value of school lunches, many kids choose not to eat the fruits, vegetables and other healthy items being served more frequently now. The reality is that kids don’t always like fruits and vegetables. That’s not the school’s fault. You can only lead the proverbial horse to water.

The problem with the new standards is a lot of food is getting wasted. Fruits and veggies are going into the trash when kids don’t want to eat them.

“District-wide, they are throwing a lot of the fruits and vegetables provided on the tray,” Hutchinson school Nutrition Director Jennifer Gardner told The Hutchinson News. “I honestly think the kids just need more education on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables.”

Seems some kids can’t identify how a cucumber slice looks.

Yes, more education is needed – with parents and children. But at some point, kids need to give some other foods a try.

In the meantime, though, so much good food going to waste is, well, a waste. You remember what your mother said about the starving children in Africa? Public school lunch food – for many children provided free or at reduced price from the government – going into the trash makes little sense.

So here’s our solution: How about a buffet line? Students could pick and choose what they want on their plates and thereby minimize waste. Such an approach also would serve as a solution for the kids, especially athletes, who aren’t satisfying their hunger at lunch. Administrators no doubt fear that costs would escalate without portion control. Maybe it all would even out.

Some portion control probably is good policy. But kids need to make their choices to some extent. The standard-issue, preloaded lunch tray is terribly inefficient.

— The Hutchinson News

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