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You Can Lead a Horse to Water But…

The Agriculture Department rolled out new requirements in 2012 that mandated children who were taking part in the federal lunch program must choose either a fruit or a vegetable with their meals. A recent study published in Public Health has just been released researching the eating habits of students in public elementary schools. The basic question they wanted to explore was: “Does requiring a child to select a fruit or vegetable actually correlate with them eating it”?

What they found was interesting on several counts. Because they were forced to, children were 29% more likely to take fruits and vegetables. But what was found was that their consumption of these was actually 13% lower than before the mandate was put in place. In fact, the school was throwing away 56% more than before. The waste from each child’s lunch went from a quarter cup to more than 39% of a cup at each meal.

The meal that was served at the time of the research included a protein, a mushy starch some cooked green beans and a whole apple. Sound like anything your elementary child would be interested in eating at lunch?

As parents, especially us mom’s we could have saved the government a lot of money and prophesied this would happen.

First, no one likes to be FORCED to do anything. Children especially.

Second, school cafeteria chefs are not trained in creative cooking or even creative cutting. Their culinary skills are primarily centered around ensuring large masses of food is available. Not so much, whether it is tasty, easy to eat, and fun.

If the government really wants kids to eat their fruits and veggies here are some helpful hints:

  1. Cut up the fruit instead of giving it whole. Little mouths and hands don’t have the room or dexterity to bite into an apple or peel an orange.
  2. Add some nut butter as dip so the apple will taste better
  3. Add some ranch dressing to the cut up carrots and celery sticks.
  4. Make the meal look like a mini-healthy kid meal. It doesn’t need the extra packaging, but surely there must be a way to make it look more exciting.
  5. Seek out recipes from healthy sources that ensure true variety, flavor and color.

Hallelujah Diet has literally hundreds of excellent recipes many of which would be perfect for school age children who would enjoy the crisp, cool tastes as well as the colorful, flavorful options.

If we want our children to enjoy healthy eating habits, it must come with more than just the tried-and–not-so-true recipes of the cafeteria past.

Carrot salads with raisins, Mashed cauliflower, The healthy version of no-bake cookies, Coconut-Date logs, Veggie burgers, carob fudge, chocolate-peanut butter pie, and the list will go on and on.

We would happily support the government by supplying them with healthy and exciting recipes so the elementary and high school age students can get a better perspective on how delicious food can really be.

If we really want them to finish their plate…We must make that food worthy to eat.

Parents need to take responsibility in this as well. If the only vegetable or fruit a child sees is on his lunch plate, then, the poor child will not be exposed to the large variety and flavors that fruits and vegetables come in.

It may take a village to raise the child, but he has only one home and that should be where the education begins.


  1. Interesting study results. In your report you say, “The meal that was served at the time of the research included a protein, ….” I can’t believe you follow the trend of generalizing the word “protein” as an item title for MEAT. This pervasive habit in our society promotes a harmful myth, that somehow animal protein provides an advantage. It’s clearly a liability in our diets. and, one other note-does it really take a village to raise a child?

  2. Roberta Ourso September 5, 2015

    ABSOLUTELY!!!!!! I can testify that the school lunches are less than attractive , appetizing and even nutritious.
    On a few occasions I ate lunch with our grandchildren and what I observed was TOTAL WASTE. Most children threw it all out, some ..PICKED….at it. As for myself. I find lunches to be HIGHLY SALTY, visually UNATTRACTIVE.
    To your point of masses of food, this is correct. Number one, it is way too much food and from what other parents have also suggested this is so unappealing. It is gross. Put a piece of meat on the plate and how does a young child cut it….they haven’t developed that skill yet and there isn’t even a plastic knife. YES! Ask for volunteers with creativity and make the fruits and veggies more attractive, smaller bites as you suggested

    I have a big concern and that is WHY ALL FREE LUNCHES NOW??????? Hmmmm, shouldn’t surprise those of us who know this government is always up to something. Well, my take is quite simple and obvious. They know most parents are going to fall into their scheme because IT IS FREE, THEY DONT HAVE TO BE …BOTHERED….FIXING LUNCHES. Once the government gets everyone on board it will SOON BECOME MANDATORY. Because, after all, the government knows what is best for all of us. Parents need to wake up, take back control of your children.

    Uniforms started out voluntary, now they are mandatory. Not a bad idea of dress code but here again it is their tactics. They are telling educators how and what to teach and it isn’t working.

    I say, TAKE TIME AND CREATE A HEALTHY LUNCH For your child, be responsible for what they eat not the government. Next, just go sit in the cafeteria and look at the gross lunches and observe how much is thrown out. Is this nutrition? Before long children will be threatened, punished or reprimanded if they don’t eat. Who,s to say they won’t be forced to eat.

    Just my observations and thoughts .

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