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Oct 6, 2012 07:30 AM

Food Waste & Food Fights - by children & teenagers

Latest report on "healthier school lunches":

Sad. Nothing novel about kids refusing vegetables and fruits (especially USAmerican kids?) but it's still both sad and infuriating.

I don't remember ever not eating my veggies (except mushrooms) when I was growing up.

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  1. Since you mentioned it, I am honestly curious if children in places like Ireland, Canada, England, Denmark, etc., are more inclined to enjoy eating vegetables? I have a two year old who will devour as much fruit as he can get his hands on, and will sometimes humor me and eat green veggies...but, while I feed him a healthy diet, these days I have to sneak the zucchini, spinach, green beans, broccoli that he wouldn't eat at dinner into his morning egg. I am hoping this passes (he ate it all when he was a baby) and continue to put them on his plate at every meal, but wondering if we lived in Western Europe instead of the USA, I would
    have better luck. ;) Obviously, I am commenting on your implication that this is more of an issue in the U.S. But, I am also genuinely curious if anyone knows how other countries handle school lunches and if if/how they have figured out how to feed children healthier meals...that don't result in hungry kids and lots of waste.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Justpaula

      "... implication that this is more of an issue in the U.S."
      I don't really know if it is - hence my question mark in my OP. Hopefully others here will join in and add their comments.

      I do have the recollection that in SE Asia many years ago veggies were in your diet as a child and you ate at least some. But then, the diets in E/SE Asia were (and still are) heavy on the veggies and low on processed sweets with little "fast food" to speak of then and kids by-and-large ate their food. IIRC. Nowadays, with the considerable "Westernization" of many people's diets there the situation is not really the same.

      Of course, the relative scarcity/high cost of meat in those cultures played a part, but that is another topic although it is related.**

      (**Traditionally, conspicuous meat consumption was usually reserved for festive occasions or for banquets - or for when one wished to impress guests with your financial means -but even then there *would* be vegetables of various sorts served. There was one time when I was at a dinner hosted by a close family friend in Malaysia where platter after platter of meat with minimal greenery was being brought out, with one pure vegetable dish (a lovely stir-fried/stewed local vegetable). I for one was hankering for veggies (and, as it turned out, my brother and sister too) that I finally - and somewhat boldly - asked if I could order another dish (the hostess said "of course") and asked the waiter for another large order of that nice veggie - and, guess what - the hostess' teenage son also dug in enthusiastically when the veggies arrived! :-) )

      1. re: Justpaula

        I am hoping this passes (he ate it all when he was a baby) and continue to put them on his plate at every meal
        It probably will. My child has gone through phases were he went "off" foods that had been favorites. Like you, I just kept putting a little on his plate and didn't make a big deal out of it.

        The school lunch thing fascinates me.

      2. I think that many kids learn poor eating ideas and habits at home, from their parents.

        8 Replies
        1. re: sandylc

          I wonder if they also learned from their parents to throw food (like those veggies and fruits) onto the cafeteria floor.

          (Look at the 5th paragraph in that NYT article: "... his classmates threw away their mandatory helpings on the cafeteria floor." I was living in an apartment complex once (in one of many separate buildings of typically six apartments) on the ground floor. At one point some people (adults) moved into the top floor apartment (three-level building) and during their tenure there routinely threw out unwanted/leftover bread, vegetable & fruit & peelings, plastic bags, food detritus, open/empty tins, jars, etc by tossing them over the parapet on their 3rd floor balcony where they had set up a patio table & chairs - right onto the ground immediately outside my equivalent balcony area, where I would walk out from my patio doors and where I had pots of plants and other stuff. I would gather these things and deposit them outside their door after pounding on it and their never coming to the door. I complained to management. I eventually took pictures (the barrage of stuff being tossed continuing...) and presented them to management and expressed extreme displeasure again. Whatever happened, or maybe it was just coincidental, those nasty denizens vacated the premises not too long afterwards.)

          1. re: huiray

            When I was living in the Lower East Side in the early 80's some of my neighbors used to throw their garbage down the airshaft (!) because they were too lazy to carry it down the stairs. Amazing.

          2. re: sandylc


            This is an issue of rearing a child, not really a food issue.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              @sandylc and ipse: Then that's an indictment of many, MANY parents. (Just look at the numbers reported in the article of kids/teenagers refusing to eat the veggies and fruits and throwing them on the floor or in the garbage...) That's even sadder. I suppose that could be viewed as one of a piece with so many parents expecting teachers to do their parenting for them and blaming the teachers when their kids fall short?

              1. re: huiray

                Yes, very similar. Unfortunately, teachers can't "fix" children whose parents have let them down. Too large of a job. You can probably get through to a few, but the odds aren't great.

                1. re: huiray

                  Considering the number of adults I meet who are convinced that their own diet full of junk IS healthy, the issue may not even be a failure of parenting as much as a symptom of a culture that is quite deluded with respect to food, parents and children alike. A culture that believes that V8 fusion is a healthy stand in for actually eating vegetables (to say nothing of people who don't make even that much effort) may have more food-related problems than just parenting.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    'Xactly. Great example on the V8 fusion.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      Touché. When even a past president of the US declared that ketchup was a (fully credentialed) vegetable...

              2. I was left with a lot of questions after reading that article. It seemed that much was left unreported.

                About the boy who wouldn't eat the pear - He would eat apples. Why only one fruit offered? I woudn't eat a fresh orange, but I'll eat a banana. Does that mean I won't eat fruit? Of course, the kids should have some choice.

                The kids will just go to the vending machines - Has it occurred to the schools to TURN OFF the machines during school hours? That's what my child's middle school does. No vending machines until 4 PM. They're available for after school activities only.

                Just what do the veggies being served look like? - Are they the grey-green mush of our childhood cafeterias? If so, I don't blame the kids for not eating them. My questions is, "If you served this exact same meal to a group of office workers, would they eat it or would they run out for hot dogs?" If this is food that you wouldn't eat, don't expect the kids to eat it either.

                Now, I don't know if this is the case. For all I know the school meals are glorious bounties of fresh local produce, deftly prepared with respect for the ingredients and diners, but I somehow doubt that. The article doesn't address that issue.

                Yes, I'm sure a fair amount of the fault rests with parents and the "American system," whatever that is. But without more information I'm not ready to throw all the blame on the kids and their families.

                3 Replies
                1. re: rockycat

                  You make some very good points! Even the veg at my mom's pricy retirement complex are mediocre. It takes a deft hand in the foodservice (as opposed to fine restaurants) industry to make even great vegetables appealing.

                  1. re: sandylc

                    " It takes a deft hand in the foodservice (as opposed to fine restaurants) industry to make even great vegetables appealing."
                    Yet to me that just feeds into the notion that there is this strange dread of vegetables in (??US?? or ??Western??) kids - *and* adults!! - such that even with grown-up people you still have to "play games" to make them eat their vegetables!

                  2. re: rockycat

                    Good points all.

                    Still, if you look at the pictures accompanying the article, one does see bananas being eaten (one kid peeling one, a banana peel in the garbage can) and the veggies shown in that garbage can look like standard salad greens/lettuce/romaine w/ carrot shavings. There's also a tossed cup of orange slices.

                    How about this article, then, with two videos for US-based schools and one from the UK...
                    The green stuff and fruits (plural) look OK to me. :-)

                    Here are some other links showing these new lunches - no blobs of melted spinach or green peas mush etc apparent to me...

                    A slide show with some photos already shown in some articles above: but slides 4 and 12 look pretty sad, though.