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Greg Martin Getting Kids to Eat In School
by Greg Martin, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: December 06, 2012

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Getting Kids to Eat In School. I’m Greg Martin with today’s Line On Agriculture.

I have some not too fond memories of school lunch time. There were a few foods I just did not like and really still don’t to this day...namely big ‘ol wax beans. Just not my thing. But school lunches have gotten a great deal of attention in the media this school year. When it comes to understanding why Americans eat the way they do - President of New York School Nutrition and registered dietitian Debbi Beauvais says the school lunchroom is a good place to start.

BEAUVAIS: School meals cost an average of about $2.50. You get at least 2 ounces of protein, you get almost 2 ounces of bread depending on what age/grade you are. Fruits and vegetables; my kids can take up to 4 servings which is 2 cups of fruits and vegetables. I allow that on the tray. They have the option of taking it. Whether they take it or not is on them and an 8 ounce carton of low fat or fat free milk.

Some of the recent attention has centered on the additional servings of vegetables USDA’s school lunch program required this school year compared with the prior year’s guidelines. Beauvais says getting kids to eat their veggies these days is no easy task.

BEAUVAIS: Well obviously I start feeding kids when they’re 4 and 5 years old coming to school for the first time as kindergarteners and they already know what they like to eat. They’ve already decided which kind of milk is the best kind of milk for them. Is chicken nugget what they are familiar with? Is pizza what they’re familiar with? Do they eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, some yeah, some absolutely not. There’s real challenges in getting kids to try new foods in schools and healthy choices.

When it comes to school meals today - New York’s top lunch lady says cafeterias bear little resemblance to the lunchrooms of old. In fact - Beauvais says battling public misconceptions is one thing school nutritionists and farmers have in common.

BEAUVAIS: You have to change eating patterns one child at a time basically. The menu’s I write for the school districts I oversee, my theme is to have something on the menu every day that every child wants to eat because every child is differently based on the way they’re raised. We know that it takes 10 to 15 tries of a new food for a child to decide they like it. You out broccoli out there and a child's never seen it before. You know we play games with the names. We having little trees today, we’re having x-ray carrots. Dr. Brian Wansink Cornell University has lots of research out there that naming foods with fun names, kids eat more.

That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Ag Information Network. 

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