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Students Trash Veggies Rather Than Eat Them

September 18, 2012, 5:51 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Students Trash Veggies Rather Than Eat Them

Statistics that show obesity is a growing problem prompted an overhaul of the nation's school lunch menus.

The new rules require twice as many fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and less sodium and fat.  And some students aren't very happy about the changes.  On Tuesday, Congresswoman Kristi Noem sat down with students in Pierre to see what they think of the new menu.

With the new federal regulations, kids can't pass up both the fruits and veggies when going through the lunch line anymore.  But administrators in Pierre say that food is feeding the trash more than the students.

"I know a lot of my friends who are just drinking a jug of milk for their lunch. And they are not getting a proper meal," middle school student Samantha Gortmaker said.

You can see from the garbage line, a lot of the healthy foods kids have to put on their plates aren't going in their stomachs. Some are concerned certain kids need more food than they're allowed to take under the new regulations.

Schools need to keep students below a certain calorie count depending on their age. Darrel Davis heads the school lunch program in Pierre.

"When they're running cross country and burning 3,000 calories a day, they need more energy.  They need more fuel," Darrel Davis said.

Davis says he doesn't have all the answers, but wants to see more flexibility.  Noem agrees. The Congresswoman says she's been fielding complaints from people across the state, including her own kids.

"With all these new requirements that are coming, the goals are great. We just really need the flexibility to really make them work," Noem said.

So Noem says she'll be asking the Secretary of Agriculture for more of that flexibility for South Dakota districts. She'd like the people who know the kids will be the ones making those decisions.

"I think given some time, we'll get used to it and try to try more of the vegetables that they're serving us. But for now, people are avoiding all the vegetables that they're putting on our tray," Gortmaker said.

So the trash is filled with them instead.

According to Pierre's food services, expenses have risen 20 to 25 cents per plate with the new menu, which is hard to see when a lot of that more expensive food is feeding the trash.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is standing behind the program and responding to concerns.

USDA officials say students should not be coming home hungry.  While some portions are smaller than in the past, kids can eat as many fruits and vegetables as they want.

The new guidelines are designed to teach kids about proper portion sizes and how to make healthier choices.

"One thing I think we need to keep in mind as kids say they're still hungry is that many children aren't used to eating fruits and vegetables at home, much less at school.  So it's a change in what they are eating. If they are still hungry, it's that they are not eating all the food that's being offered," USDA Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton said.

USDA officials say they are visiting schools, taking feedback on the new school lunches and will continue evaluating the program.

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