“I threw all of it away.”

An NPR story explores “plate waste,” one of the primary reasons for the pitched political battle over school lunch standards.  The new standards require schools to serve more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Some school lunch providers say that the new rules are wasting money, because more food is going into the trash. They argue that kids don’t like the new, healthier fare. And a recent Twitter campaign directed against First Lady Michelle Obama bears that out.

DC Central Kitchen, which provides lunches to eight DC area schools, is trying to change that by involving kids in the food selection process. They prepare three recipes using a food product – in this story, carrots – and let kids taste and vote on their favorites. The most popular item rolls onto the menu. The program’s coordinators think that empowering youth to make healthy choices makes a difference. They cite this example from Walker-Jones Elementary School:

“That is the point of this little contest. It’s not just a matter of coming up with a good recipe. It’s giving the children some control over their own lunch menu. Katie Nash, from DC Central Kitchen, says it really does work. When the winning recipes show up on lunch plates at Walker-Jones, the children remember: Oh, yeah, I voted for this! It was good!”

If you have five minutes, you can also listen to the NPR podcast.