Lake Co. schools hope new survey will cut lunch waste



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Despite federal efforts to get students to eat healthier, plate after plate of veggies are being dumped into Lake County school trash cans every day.

And not only is it attracting Sumpster diving, there's no telling how many tax dollars the mandate is costing.

WFTV's Berdnt Petersen saw the veggies trashed at lunch on Tuesday at Tavares Elementary School.

The school district hopes a new survey will put a stop to the waste, find out what the children like and if it's on the federal list of approved vegetables.

School officials are learning that broccoli, celery and cherry tomatoes aren't going over very well with first graders.

"He doesn't like to eat lunch here because he doesn't like the side items," said parent Tricia Ramsdell.

That's why she said she packs her son's lunch.

"The other day they had celery and hummus. I'll eat that, but he's not going to eat that," Ramsdell said.

The government's school lunch program has some new rules.

"The new regulations now, it's all or nothing," said Gary Dodds, a food services supervisor.

Dodds said that this year, federal officials ordered a longer list of vegetables that must be on the menu. If schools don't include lettuce, cabbage, celery sticks and carrots the government could yank reimbursements.

"If they withhold the district lunches for one or two months, it could be thousands of dollars," said Dodds.

But because some students don't like bean salad, they won't eat it, and then it goes in the trash can.

District officials don't know how many pounds of vegetables, and ultimately tax dollars, wind up in the trash. School board members want custodians or parents to help monitor what's being thrown out.

Ramsdell said a survey might be easier.

"Talk to the parents and get them to tell what their kids like, and maybe go with the things that most kids eat," she said.

And one school board member said more people are going through the school trash because too much food is ending up there.