Though students are now required to take more fruits and vegetables, the new meal guidelines can’t force them to actually eat the healthful foods. But one Omaha school is trying to keep unwanted produce out of the trash and put into the hands of the needy.
Students across the country are now obliged to grab at least one fruit or vegetable at lunch, thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's major nutritional overhaul. While some of the healthful changes are seen as a welcome change, many students are just throwing away the forced foods, a problem Kelli Schilken noticed cropping up at her Westside High School, KETV reports.
"You could look in the trash bins, and you could see all these pieces," Schilken told the news outlet. "Perfect and untouched in the trash."
To help alleviate the additional food-waste problem, Schilken started a program that allows students to simply drop the produce they don’t want into bins to be distributed to the hungry in the district.
Though Schilken's Omaha school was able to find a solution, many schools that also face an abundance of food waste may not be able to do anything about it.
In addition to pushing produce, banning trans fats and implementing a calorie cap on meals, the new USDA regulations will penalize students who don't take the required fruits and vegetables. Instead of paying the cost of a full meal, parents will be charged the a la carte price, which is about 80 cents extra in Connecticut, Shelton Patch reports.
Though donation programs like the one implemented at Westside High School could help solve the concerning waste issue, many schools aren’t able to give away food once it’s been served, which was the case in the Shelton, Conn., school district.
"What we may be able to do is compost the leftovers, which is a far cry from feeding the helpless," Mark Holden, Shelton school board member, told Shelton Patch. "We teach kids not to waste food but here we’re giving them a program that pays to waste food if they don’t want it."