Importantly, the new standards did not result in increased food waste, contradicting anecdotal reports from food service directors, teachers, parents, and students that the regulations were causing an increase in waste due to both larger portion sizes and the requirement that students select a fruit or vegetable. However, high levels of fruit and vegetable waste continued to be a problem—students discarded roughly 60%-75% of vegetables and 40% of fruits on their trays. The authors say that schools must focus on improving food quality and palatability to reduce waste.
“The new school meal standards are the strongest implemented by the USDA to date, and the improved dietary intakes will likely have important health implications for children,” wrote the researchers.
TK: The pushback against fruit and vegetable-friendly nutrition standards for school meals is real, and researchers in this report make a strong argument that the increased offerings are being consumed. While waste has not increased in sympathy with the greater servings, the authors admit that plate waste remains fairly high. If “schools must focus on improving food quality and palatability to reduce waste,” how can the industry help schools reduce fruit and veggie waste? Ideas?