The lunch period is supposed to last 20 minutes, but 10 minutes can be spent standing in line, he said. The U.S. needs longer lunch periods to help kids eat healthy, Lewis said.
Fresh-cut nectarines and peaches and sweet potato sticks are some of the new items many kids like, he said.
Lewis said the district has about an $8 million budget for the year, of which $4 million is spent on food. Of that $4 million, $1 million per year is spend on fresh produce.
Penny Parham, administrative director for the Department of Food and Nutrition at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said the district — the fourth largest in the U.S. — has a $189 million budget. Parham said $73 million is spent on food, and $6.5 million is spent on 5 million pounds of fresh produce.
New federal school lunch standards have not resulted in more plate waste of fruits and vegetables than in the past, she said. The biggest food waste challenge has been milk in school meals, she said.
With rising wage rates and benefit costs for school employees, she said ready-to-eat meals are important and much needed. The district has installed 57 vending machines that can dispense school meals to high school students.
She urged suppliers to also provide quality produce.
“Kids are unforgiving,” she said. “If you give them a peach that’s hard like an apple, they won’t try the peach the next time around,” she said.
School foodservice officials also must be trained to serve produce at its peak flavor and quality, she said.