Healthier school lunches is costly undertaking

Updated:

TAVARES, Fla.,None - The federal government's push to get children to eat healthier at school next year will come at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

WFTV’s Racquel Asa learned that Lake County has already seen thousands of dollars wasted.

Lake County schools rolled out a revamped menu a year early in anticipation of the federal requirement to cut down on calories and get kids to eat healthier. But getting kids to try new things came at a cost; $75,000 in fruit and other produce wasted in the first couple of months.

 “At least we see now it is possible to implement this without too much discomfort,” said Gary Dodds, Lake County Schools supervisor of food services.

A majority of the waste came from figuring out what kids would eat while staying within the guidelines.

The school district said they have a much better handle on it now, but other schools will have the same problem if they didn't start as early as Lake County.

“They are going to have to go through some of those growing pains that I guess we did earlier on in the year,” said Dodds.

One change to the lunch service-line means no more juice containers. The only drinks available to students are milk and water. Lake County swapped out the juice containers with fresh fruit to comply with the upcoming change.

The switch is expected to push up produce costs $300,000 a year for the district. That means lunch prices will increase at least 50 cents a week. The government will only cover half of that; parents will need to come up with the rest. 

 “We're paying for unhealthy people to go to the doctor. So if they're healthy, that will cut down on the medical,” said Debbie Driggers, a mother of two students.

 “I think they should offer them healthier options, but I also think it's more some of the parents choices to help raise them,” said mother Amanda Marden.

All schools will be required to follow the new food rules by next fall.

Along with being required to increase fruit and vegetable consumption by half a cup, districts will only be allowed to offer low-fat milk and whole grains.