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Why Must I Take a Fruit or Vegetable?

posted Nov 21, 2019, 10:10 AM by Brenda Williams
Why must I take a fruit or vegetable? I cannot count the number of times I am asked this question every day. Thus, I am revisiting an article I wrote about three years ago to help me answer this question.

It is truly a good question. If a child does not want it, why should they take it? We at the Pequot Lakes School District, and most every school district in the country, must make sure that every student has either a fruit or a vegetable on his/her tray before they leave the lunch line.

Why you ask? Back in the mid-1970’s, Congressman Bill Goodling and other leaders believed students were throwing away far too much food, so they devised the “Offer Versus Serve” based menu plan option. This option was designed to decrease waste and give students greater flexibility in choosing the foods they will eat. Before this was passed, every student in the lunch line was served all foods that were offered for the meal.

All school food programs participating in the National School Lunch Program must serve five meal components at every lunch. They are meat/meat alternative, grains, fruits, vegetables and milk. For the “Offer Versus Serve” plan, the student has a choice. They must choose three full servings from the options offered. The only requirement beyond that is that one serving on his/her tray MUST be a fruit or a vegetable. They are welcome to take everything offered, but must take at least three.

For breakfast, the rule stays the same. We typically do not serve vegetables for breakfast, but we always serve fruit of some sort and 100% fruit juice.

This is where the question comes in: “Why must I take a fruit or vegetable?” The answer is this: For every meal we serve in the district, the district gets funding from the state and federal government. In order for us to receive this funding, they insist the student has a ‘full meal’ which, in their opinion, includes either a fruit or a vegetable. The simple answer to the question of why must I take a fruit or vegetable is this: So we continue to receive our funding. If a representative from the Minnesota Department of Education were to be here visiting and sees a student leave the lunch line without these requirements being met, we could lose funding for not only just that student, but for every student that ate that day.

In both schools we have what we call the “Sharing bucket.” This is a widely used tool, accepted by both the Minnesota Department of Education and the Department of Health to help reduce waste and give those students still hungry an option to grab something free of charge. Outside of the serving lines at both schools is a bucket where students can place unwanted items. These items may include, as long as they are individually wrapped, a piece of fresh fruit (untouched with peel still intact), juice cup, cheese stick, or an unopened carton of milk. Other students may help themselves to any items in this bucket, free of charge, whether they purchased a lunch or not. Hopefully the students who did not want that piece of fruit will place it in the sharing bucket, so another student can grab it for free.

A reminder to parents: You can sign up for free and reduced meals anytime throughout the school year. Applications are on the school website and in each school office. Call Patty with any questions at 218-568-9363.

-- Patty Buell, Food Service Director