Special report: Healthier lunch means more waste - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Special report: Healthier lunch means more waste


Across America it's a constant reminder, "everyone take a fruit or vegetable," school cooks at Marathon High School remind students. But, from little kids to big kids, many students say the new lunchroom guidelines aren't going down so well.

"I think they're too strict for us," Marathon senior Chris Dahlke said.

The USDA implemented new lunchroom guidelines in September. The new federal standards promote smaller portions, and fewer calories. That means less bread and cheese and more fruits and veggies.

"The regulations are based on really sound and scientific studies and evidence of what's happening with kids," UWSP nutrition professor Jasia Steinmetz said.

But, experts say while the changes look to promote healthier eating habits, in actuality its produced a dramatic increase in food waste.

"We have a lot we didn't eat that we should have," 88th grader Mandeline Lions said.

A recent nationwide study shows students are throwing away twice as much food as last year. But, what about here in Wisconsin? We stopped by the lunchroom at Marathon Elementary School to find out.

With the help of some middle school students, and plastic gloves, we sorted through two trash cans from one lunch period. What we found was surprising.

As the students sorted through they found full cartons of milk, half eaten apples, and whole quesadillas. Specifically, 17 apples out of 24 were whole, and 13 quesadillas were thrown away without one bite missing.

"It was kind of gross to see all the food," 88th grader Alicia Jensen said.

"Even though they have to take it, they don't eat it," Lions agreed.

"Your initial reaction to seeing it all on the tarp is wow that's a lot of waste," Principal Jeff Reiche said.

But, despite the numbers, Reiche says the results weren't as bad as he thought.

"We have less waste than I really imagined," Reiche said as he looked at the piles of sorted garbage. "I'm impressed most kids drank the milk."

But, down the road at the high school, it's a different concern. Chris Dahlke and Keely Vetter are seniors at Marathon High School. Both are athletes who say they aren't getting enough food.

"It's hard to use our ability, to go out and practice for three hours and have empty stomachs," Dahlke explained.

And Vetter agreed.

"I keep peanut butter and crackers in my locker in case I'm hungry and I usually am."

But, apples, quesadillas and milk aside, students from 3rd grade to 12th grade know the value of a healthier diet. They just might not like it.

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