It’s hard enough when parents must match wits with their kids to get them to eat vegetables. Imagine the task facing the Los Angeles Unified School District, which serves 625,000 meals a day in more than 500 schools.
The school district regularly surveys elementary- and secondary-school students on their food preferences. No surprise: “The five lowest-rated items were vegetables,” reports chief nutritionist Laura Chinnock.
At the very bottom of a fruits-and-vegetable survey was “mixed vegetables,” immediately preceded by potato rounds, mashed potatoes, raw vegetables with dip, and corn.
To verify the survey results, school officials also conduct “plate waste” studies, in which someone stands next to a trash can and watches what kids toss. Untouched vegetables are discarded most often, Chinnock says.
Hoping to reduce food waste, the schools are trying an “offer versus serve” menu, where kids needn’t take everything that’s offered, she says. Predictably, vegetables are commonly turned down.