FOX 11 Investigates Follow Up: Healthier school lunches under the microscope

GREEN BAY – First lady Michelle Obama is in a food fight with Congressional Republicans.

Mrs. Obama is highlighting the success of healthier school meal standards she lobbied for in 2010. At the same time, a Republican-backed agriculture spending bill got the okay by a House committee last week to loosen federal control on school nutrition. The bill would allow schools losing money on the federally subsidized lunch program to waive the standards.

The national program was approved in 2011. It was rolled out to school districts like Green Bay in 2012 with some turned-up noses.

“I don’t like it,” students told FOX 11 Investigates time and time again referring to the nutritional changes.

FOX 11 Investigates found then, students who were forced to take fruits and vegetables to comply with the federal requirements threw much of the food away.

“You’re encouraging and forcing the kids to take a vegetable or a fruit that maybe they don’t want. Doesn’t a lot of that just end up in the garbage?” FOX 11 Investigates reporter Mark Leland asked then-Green Bay Food Service manager Sue Baier.

“Well we’ve seen that,” said Baier. “We have not done a plate waste study in this district yet, but I’m hearing that from area colleagues that the kids will still only eat so much and then it does end up going into the trash.”

Two years later, Green Bay Food Service director Kathy Walker, who was hired last year, says the healthier foods program is catching on.

“I do believe we need to keep on this course because we are seeing some results,” said Walker.

“Are you seeing less waste in the schools?” asked Leland.

“I think we are seeing less waste because kids do have to take half cup of fruit or vegetables or a combo, but what we’re seeing is they’re taking a lot more than a half a cup,” said Walker.

Favorite items are now cucumber slices and baby carrots. Walker does admit the healthier foods cost the district more. That’s a concern for some congressional members who say smaller districts are losing money.

“It has been a challenge to incorporate this and I’m sure I do get a better price on produce than a lot of littler districts,” offered Walker.

The House Appropriations Committee is expected this week to approve the bill allowing schools losing money on their lunches to waive the nutritional standards.

In the meantime, more nutritional changes are coming this fall.  Students can expect less salt and more whole grains on the required menu.

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