Resolution to increase school control over lunch menu

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COLUMBIA - Some school districts across Missouri are complaining that federal mandates are hurting their lunch programs. 

Wright City RII School District Superintendent Chris Gaines sent testimony on Tuesday to a Missouri Senate committee discussing a resolution to loosen restrictions.

"Since the mandates were implemented, we've seen 12 percent fewer students choosing school lunches between the 2008-2009 school year and the 2013-2014 school year," Gaines said.

 Gaines said it's not just about the number of kids who eat, but also the cost of food.

"This year, each lunch costs 60 cents more than before the mandates," Gaines said.

Wright City RII and Reorganized Lee's Summit #7 school districts are also worried about food waste.

"Kids have to have a certain amount of fruits or vegetables on their plates for us to receive reimbursement from the government," Gaines said. "But having something on their plates doesn't mean they eat it. Sometimes it ends up in the trash".

Lee's Summit Reorganized School District #7 said 49 percent of vegetables served to students are thrown away, not eaten. 

Gaines said all his school district can do is try new recipes to encourage kids to actually eat the fruits and vegetables.

"Thankfully, we've actually had a fair amount of luck with seasoning and spices," he said.

Midway Heights Elementary School cook Dana Van Cleave said that thinking makes a lot of sense. 

"It's all about finding new ways to present foods that kids may have a bad association with," Van Cleave said.

For Van Cleave that means walking around the cafeteria during lunch and offering fruits and vegetables to students. 

"Today it was lemonade apples," she said. "I think they were a hit, simply because they're really tart and sort of a novelty item."

 Green beans aren't new but they were popular with Midway Heights students during lunch on Wednesday. 

"I love the green beans," one student said. "Ms. Dana's green beans are the best ever."

Superintendent Gaines has an idea to encourage Congress to loosen current regulations around school lunch.

"Have the Congressional cafeteria have the same restrictions as every school lunch room across the nation," he said.