Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Food Waste In Schools: A Side Effect Of Healthy Standards?

Critics of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 argue the standards are forcing kids to take food they won't eat and thereby creating more waste.

A lunchroom attendant hands out sliced apples.

Photo: USDA (Flickr)

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act requires students to choose a serving of fruit or vegetables with their lunch.

Food waste is a big problem at schools — one study found 23.9 percent of all school waste consists of edibles.

Healthy Foods Going To Waste?

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (2010) requires schools to offer vegetables and fruit, and students are required to pick one as part of their meal.

Critics of the school food rules argue the restrictions placed on school lunches cause more waste by forcing kids to take foods they don’t like and won’t eat.

This lunchroom waste is costing schools valuable resources. One study found $3.8 million of the $5.4 million spent by school districts on produce is being thrown away.

Changing Habits Of America’s Children

Perhaps the situation isn’t as dire as some districts believe.

Harvard University conducted a small study to see exactly how much food is being thrown away, and the researchers discovered the new standards did not in fact increase food waste at schools.

There are also signs children’s tastes are adjusting. Significantly more children are choosing fruit than previously, and although the same number of children are choosing vegetables as before, those children are increasing their veggie consumption.

The study’s authors caution that, although food waste hasn’t increased, the current amount should be addressed.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency study points out that composting can significantly help schools reduce waste that ends up in landfills.

Read More:

  • Solutions sought to reduce food waste at schools (Los Angeles Times)
  • Healthful school lunches do not result in more food waste, study finds (MinnPost)
  • EndFoodWasteNow.org: Schools
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Bloomington, Indiana. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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  • Lillian Henegar

    Food waste at schools seems to me an argument for student gardens and composting.

    So what is the solution according to the critics, to continue serving our children lifeless c–p?!

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