Yakima Valley students adjusting to healthier school food

Yakima Valley students adjusting to healthier school food »Play Video
SUNNYSIDE, Wash. -- Healthy eating and fighting against hunger: That's the promise of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Schools across the Yakima Valley have been changing what's on lunch trays to make sure kids eat better. Now, the final set of rules will be in place for the next school year.

Fruits and veggies don't exactly scream, "Eat me," especially for kids. That's been the biggest challenge for the Sunnyside School District.

"Some of our students come through and maybe take one carrot, and we ask them to go back and go get another one," said Sunnyside School District Food Service Director Yvonne Ramirez.

A federal statute signed into law required schools to start serving healthier foods two years ago. All schools are required to serve five meal components: meat, grain, fruit, vegetable and milk. All students must take a minimum of three. One component must be a fruit or vegetable.

Sunnyside parent Heather Derby said she likes seeing her daughter eat healthier.

"She likes the fruit, she's a big fruit eater, and she loves milk, and she's especially excited she gets to choose chocolate milk," she said.

Ramirez said kids are gradually accepting the new foods. Still, on average, a quarter of the food is wasted. However, they haven't seen a big drop in kids getting school lunch.

The school district spent $1.6 million on food in each of the last two school years. It says spending money on healthier foods has been more expensive, but worth it.

"I just want our kids to be healthy and have healthy eating habits," said Ramirez.

The East Valley School District said kids are reacting well to healthier foods. They think it's because kids have a choice rather than just getting served. There's been a 6 percent increase in East Valley's food costs every year since the new regulations. It estimates 20 percent of food gets wasted.

"I think it's definitely a step in the right direction,” said Heather. “More can be done, but you also have to look at the costs."

The Yakima School District said there has been an increase in school lunch participation since the new regulation. Less than 20 percent of food gets wasted in Yakima.