IPS pushing healthier school lunches

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What is your child having for lunch today?  Chances are, if they don't like eating vegetables at home, they'll avoid them at school, as well.

New federal rules require a balanced and healthier lunch for school children, including more vegetables and wheat, and less salt.

But is it working?

One Indianapolis school let us in at lunchtime to find out.

On the day we stopped at Meredith Nicholson Elementary school on the west side of Indianapolis, we found a balanced menu. Grade schoolers were given a breaded chicken patty on a whole wheat bun, a choice of pre-portioned vegetables, and a whole banana or serving of pears.

Sixth-grader Allison Wahl likes the change. "Last year we had...it was macaroni and cheese," she said. "I did not like it."

You won't find the old standards, like a hamburger and french fries, the Nicholson menu. And pizza comes with mixed feelings - it's now served on a whole wheat crust.

Justin Cepeda, also in sixth grade, said he doesn't like to waste food. "I usually take what's better because I don't want to leave food on the tray. So I prefer things I'm actually going to eat."

Justin may be the exception, because we spotted other students dumping their vegetables or passing their containers back to the teacher, so the food can be shared with another student, or given to a food bank.

"I think it's typical of kids to leave their vegetables," Cepeda said, "just push them aside."

"Those of us who are parents know how tricky it can be to get our children to simply eat, let alone eat nutritionally," said John Althardt, who is a spokesman for Indianapolis Public Schools.

The state's largest school district serves approximately 15,000 breakfasts and 25,000 lunches each day. 

The goal is to make every meal healthy, with the least amount of waste, "So that children are introduced to a variety of different fruits and vegetables that they may not have access to at home," explained Althardt.

Students are even given a choice of milk. one-percent, strawberry, or chocolate. The flavored milk is fat free, and the most popular.

IPS believes to be leading the push to improve school lunches. 

About five years ago, students were given a TV dinner-style tray with predetermined servings.

Now they get a choice of sides. The choice cuts down on waste.