Hey, kid, you gonna eat that?

10/03/2012 10:05:00 AM
Fred Wilkinson

Managing Editor Fred Wilkinson pinch-hitting for Tom, who is in D.C. for United Fresh's annual public policy conference.

One of the old jokes in the produce business is that sometimes the trash can is your best customer.

Apparently business is a little too brisk at some schools in Florida:

TAVARES, Fla. -- Lake County School Board officials are considering attaching cameras to school cafeteria trash cans to study what students are tossing after officials found that most of the vegetables on the school menu end up in the trash can.

New federal laws require students to take a healthy produce at lunchtime, but last year in Lake County, students tossed $75,000 worth of produce in the garbage. 

"It's a big issue, and it's very hard to get our hands around it," said School Board member Todd Howard, who suggested "trash-cams." "They have to take (the vegetable), and then it ends up in the trash can, and that's a waste of taxpayer money.  It's also not giving students the nutrition that they need."

The produce industry has rightfully celebrated successful efforts to expand fresh fruits and vegetables in school food programs.

Changing diets can take time, and the battle to get kids to eat their vegetables is one of humanity's longest-running family dramas.

Roadblocks to improved school nutrition such as food waste are clearly no reason to give up, but neither can produce suppliers assume that simply because they've successfully lobbied for a salad bar in a cafeteria that their job is done.

Experimentation and innovation with product lineups and convenience offerings can help make sure the trash can isn't the only one in school getting its fill of fruits and vegetables.

Some research at Cornell shows promise (even if it is a bit corny).



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