Millions wasted in federal school lunch program

Districts share struggles with fruits and vegetables ending up in the trashcan.

CINCINNATI — An exclusive 9 On Your Side investigation reveals millions of dollars worth of fresh fruits and vegetables are being thrown in the trash in school lunch rooms in Ohio and across the country.

The National School Nutrition Association blames new federal nutrition standards requiring students to take more fresh fruits and vegetables as well as increasing the amount of whole grains.

The National School Lunch Program feeds 31 million students across the country, including one million in Ohio.

It's operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and spends nearly $12 billion a year and insists more students are eating fresh fruits and vegetables and the program is aimed at making students healthier.

The USDA points to a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health to support its claim, but the same study also shows that 60 percent of fresh vegetables and 40 percent of fresh fruit are being thrown away.

And a recent study released by the National School Nutrition Association found 81.2 percent of schools surveyed indicated an increase in the amount of food being thrown away by students since the new nutrition standards went into effect two years ago.

The association also points to a study performed by researches at Cornell University and Brigham Young University that suggests some $4 million a day is being wasted.



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