LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Every school district in the country follows the requirements set forth by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Most school districts in the country are having their fair share of issues with the standards. We were invited to visit Dixie Elementary in Fayette County.
"Lots of people finish it," claimed student Kennon Pavona, referring to lunch at Dixie Elementary.
"The fruits taste really juicy," exclaimed eight year-old Kara Peters. But a glance in the garbage can told another story: untouched fruit cups tossed in the trash, one after the other.
"They would take it and then literally walk around to the dish room window and throw it away." Michelle Coker, director of child nutrition for Fayette County Schools, described the scene at many high schools in Fayette County. She said students will dump the required fruit or vegetable that must now be on each student's plate.
Coker said they started following the standards in 2011. Each year, new requirements were added. The latest requires every student to have a fruit or vegetable on their tray, no matter what. "It was challenging," Coker said. Typically, child nutrition had been spending $100 thousand a year on produce. Last year, to meet the fruit and vegetable standards, they spent $400 thousand.
Not only is the produce costly, and much of it tossed, but less kids are buying lunch since the switch. An estimated three and a half to four percent less lunches are being bought since the standards changed. Those percentages are similar nationwide. "We even have students who get meal assistance, free or reduced, who aren't eating and that's discouraging," Coker said.
"I don't really eat the vegetables and fruit. It goes in the trash," said Cassidy Bietz.
Her sister, Sydney agrees. "The broccoli is dry and their green beans are really oily." Both sisters have struggled to fill up at lunch time since the new standards started.
"The school vegetables, they don't taste the same," Cassidy said. Taste is something Coker said manufacturers are scrambling to improve. She said with the quick pace of implementation, it's been a challenge to keep up.
"Everybody is really trying to pull together to make it happen," Coker said. Because the students are the customers, and as they say, the customer is always right.
"Fruits and vegetables are good for your body," Dixie Elementary student Bennett Loch said.