GREEN BAY - Public school students are throwing away a good portion of the lunch, and in many cases it's being paid for taxpayers.
For some 58 percent of students in the Green Bay school district lunch comes at no cost, or dramatically reduced cost thanks to federal government reimbursements based on income eligibility.
It's all part of the National School Lunch Program that last year cost taxpayers $11.1 Billion.
"It is to regulate different meals that are served to the children and increase overall nutrition," said Sue Baier, who heads up the food service for the district providing some 11,000 nutritionally-balanced meals a day.
The big changes implemented this year get more fruits, vegetables and whole grains on students' plates, but also see portion sizes getting smaller.
"I don't like it. It's too small if you want more food then you have to go to ala carte and I get free lunch so I can only get what I got here," said Michaela Reince, an 8th grader at Lombardi Middle School in Green Bay.
You might think with smaller portions less food would go to waste. For some that's true.
But the new federal guidelines require students to take more fruit and or vegetables to with their smaller hot entrée and milk to make a complete lunch. And for the district to get the federal dollars to cover the free and reduced meals, students have to get the complete lunch.
"You're encouraging and forcing the kids to take a vegetable or a fruit that maybe they don't want. Doesn't a lot of that just end up in the garbage?" we asked Baier.
"Well we've seen that. We have not done a plate waste study in this district yet, but I'm hearing that from area colleagues that the kids will still only eat so much and then it does end up going into the trash," said Baier.
We visited Danz Elementary School on a day when students got hamburgers for lunch. It came with a side of baked beans, milk and students could choose a fruit cup and or items from a salad bar.
A few students cleaned their plate but most of those plates could be seen with untouched items that were required to meet the nutritional guidelines. And ultimately the food ended up in the garbage.
"As a parent are you distressed seeing them throw all that food away?" we asked parent and lunchroom monitor Brian Vande Hei.
"I am, absolutely it's a concern. But you can't just feed them everything that they want to eat," said Vande Hei.
Baier says along with the lunch, better education on nutrition is needed at home and at school.
"Education is a key component to getting the kids to realize why they're eating the fruits and vegetables," said Baier.
Students are getting some education on nutrition in the classroom. And lunchroom staff have been retrained to encourage the kids to give new food items a try.
Baier says eating healthier will take a little getting used to. She says over time they'll see less waste.
"I hope so and I think that will be the progression so it just naturally falls into place," said Baier.
In the middle and high schools students have more options for lunch, but they too having to adjust to change.
Even those students not receiving free or reduced lunch are pushed into taking the fruits and vegetables since the complete lunch cost is priced less than just buying the pizza and milk ala carte.
"I throw some of it away," admitted one student. Others agreed.
For most students there's a fine line between consumption and garbage.
"If it's nasty or doesn't taste right," explained one student for throwing her lunch away.
And while food waste is nothing new, the new nutrition guidelines comes at a new price.
"Quite frankly this program is costing...it will cost more. Anytime you use fresh vegetables and vegetables that come already prepared," explained Baier.
The federal reimbursement for the 58 percent of students who get lunch paid for by the federal government in addition to those paying cash help to make the food operation in Green Bay self sufficient.
Green Bay has done so well workers from the West De Pere School District checked the operation out to get ideas on how to improve.
Baier hopes to conduct a study to determine just how much food is being thrown away… keeping in mind if it goes in the garbage it's not doing what it's intended to do--provide a nutritionally balanced meal.
First responders helped ring in the holidays at the 45th annual Howard-Suamico Christmas Parade.
Christmas is just two and half weeks away, and kids and families are getting into the holiday spirit.
Single digit temps around the area caused problems in the Fox Valley Saturday morning.
The frigid temperatures forced some area communities to cancel their weekend Christmas celebrations. But New London braved the cold for its annual Holiday of Wonder Parade.
Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's all of the injuries, but many Packers fans are saying "no thanks," to this weekend's Packers game.
With only a little snow on the ground in places, snowmobilers are ready for more. In the Lakewood area, trails are not yet open, but clubs are gearing up for an early start to the season.