BUFFALO, NY -- If you are a parent of a school aged child, it's likely you know all about the new guidelines for school lunches. The new rules are meant to help kids begin a life-long routine of eating healthy food and also curb the problem of childhood obesity. To say there are some growing pains would be an understatement. Districts are struggling with finding options the kids will try and in the meantime, kids are going home hungry. Plate waste is at an all-time high.
Two On Your Side visited two local school districts to see how things are going. It seems in the Niagara Falls and Ken-Ton School Districts, there is a struggle. Those in charge of feeding the students are working hard to find the right balance of healthy foods that kids will actually eat.
In Ken-Ton, Kim Roll is in charge of food services. She says it is a struggle, but things are falling into place, slowly. There have been growing pains and as they continue to find foods kids like, their hands are somewhat tied by the regulations. The new regulations mean the students now get smaller portions, fewer calories, less protein and more fruits and vegetables.
The guidelines limit elementary students to 650 Calories. Middle School Students to 700 calories. And High Schoolers to a maximum of 850 calories.
There are weekly requirements for fruits and vegetables depending on the age of the student and the only option for milk one percent or fat free.
Kids are wasting a lot of food. When we visited Kenmore West High School, we found students throwing out some or even all of their meals. It was the same situation at Niagara Falls High School.
Kids in the falls are not really embracing the new guidelines. Lorenzo Polato is the Food Service Manager for the district and admits the waste is worse than ever.
It is important to note that many schools offer alternatives just about every day. In many districts, kids can order salads and even other sandwiches. They just have to ask.
Officials are urging parents to talk with their kids and ask them to try the food, try the vegetables and eat the fruit. They are hoping to find healthy options that kids eat and in both districts we visited, they continue trying new things.
In the Falls, where about 70% of kids eat free or reduced lunches, the wasted food is mainly paid for by federal funds, which come from taxpayers.
There are still some favorites -- like tater tots which are considered a vegetable.
By the way, they do have whole grain pasta, whole grain pizza crust and -- whole grain taco shells.
Next year the focus will be on healthier breakfasts in schools.
Many kids, especially athletes are saying they are hungry after lunch. With only two ounces of protein. Health experts we spoke with say lunch is not really supposed to get you through the day, especially when some lunches begin at 10 am. Healthy snacks are a great idea for later in the day and after school.
Join us in the conversation on twitter. Tell us what you and your kids think. Use the hashtag #schoollunch