Quantifying School Lunch Loss

There’s a reason adults tell kids to eat their vegetables–because they don’t!

The 2010 changes to the National School Lunch Program (prompted by Michelle Obama’s push) that added more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to kids meals. But that comes at a cost–more wasted food and taxpayer dollars when school food is discarded.

Virginia Tech junior Lindsey Kummer set out to examine and quantify how the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids initiative impacted nutrition, the amount of food wasted and the economics. She studied loss at a nearby elementary school. 

Kummer found that the average student threw away about half of his or her school lunch. That meant an average of 72 cents of food wasted from each meal. And that’s from a total reimbursed cost of about $3 per meal.

So in addition to filling school trash cans and landfills, that means the nutritional goals aren’t being reached. Supposedly, kids must be exposed to a food 10 times before they’ll accept or eat it. Hopefully, that’s part of the explanation here.

But a better solution would be school gardens (if possible) and increased education to get kids accustomed to/interested in fruits and vegetables. That way, hopefully, they’ll want to eat more of them. And we also need more composting programs to handle the inevitable excess, keeping it out of the landfill. 

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