Kids are (not) what they (won t) eat

Efforts to improve the healthfulness of school lunches are increasingly evident, from upping kids portions of fruits and vegetables to (rather unfathomably) removing chocolate milk from the cafeteria. Still, a news story from Colorado reminds us that there is still a ways to go.

Between a third and a half of all the fruits and vegetables served to youngsters at cafeterias last year wound up in the trash, reports Rebecca Jones for Education News Colorado. The numbers on the plate waste are from a survey performed for the Thompson School District by dietitian and Colorado State University doctoral candidate Stephanie Smith. The school district will respond by launching a new program this fall that incorporates strategies that include rearranging school lunch schedules and serving lines in order to persuade more students to choose fresh produce at lunch.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross thinks that the school district s new approach is a good way to start. It s most important to acknowledge the problem, he says. And since trying to force kids to eat better is a non-starter, what absolutely needs to be discussed is how to make healthful food choices more attractive. Resorting to simple-minded mandates, he stresses (with an eye toward recent school lunch bans on potatoes and chocolate milk), will not work.

ACSH s Senior Fellow in Nutrition Dr. Ruth Kava also points out the importance of the home environment in developing kids tastes for healthier foods. If your child becomes accustomed to trying Brussels sprouts and broccoli at home, she says, she ll be much more likely to put them on her plate in the cafeteria. She notes, too, that both fresh produce and canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are options for schools; the latter retain their nutritional content and can, in some cases, be a more cost effective alternative provided, of course, you can convince kids to eat them.