Nazareth school officials trying to stop students from throwing away healthy lunch food

Posted: 12:46 AM EDT Oct 23, 2012   Updated: 5:51 PM EDT Oct 23, 2012
Generic school lunch - nutrition

Students in the Nazareth Area School District in Northampton County are having a hard time swallowing healthier lunch choices, and school administrators are looking for ways to stop the waste of food.

The problem of students throwing fruits such as apples and oranges and vegetables, including broccoli and Brussels sprouts, into the garbage was brought to the school board's attention Monday night by district food director Sharon Ryba. She said the administration "is looking at ways to correct that."

Schools Superintendent Dennis Riker told the board that starting this school year, new federal guidelines require more fruits and vegetables in school lunches. He said students are buying those healthier lunches because they're cheaper than paying for certain lunch items separately. However, the students are discarding the fruits and vegetables, Riker said.

Board member Chris Miller asked if administrators have contacted lawmakers about the new rules, which he referred to twice as "this nonsense." Riker said the matter has been discussed with them.

After the meeting, Riker said that so far, administrators have come up with only one idea to stop students from tossing the fruit portion of their lunches -- packaged apple slices. "We've found more students will take [the packaged slices] with them, instead of throwing them away," Riker noted.

The superintendent estimated that students are throwing "30 to 40 percent" of the fruits and vegetables into the garbage. However, the district has been told it cannot set up containers to collect the food, which could possibly be given to a food bank, Riker added.

"We've been told we cannot recycle. It's not permitted."

The superintendent didn't have hard figures to compare the cost of meals with and without fruits and vegetables. But he offered an example, saying a meal that included a cheeseburger, milk, vegetables and fruit might cost $2, while a meal bought without a vegetable and fruit might cost $2.25.

Riker said that including fruits and vegetables costs the district 15 cents more per lunch, noting that the federal government is offering the district a six-cent reimbursement for each healthy lunch sold.