Rochester, NY - One in three American children are overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association.
Schools are leading the fight to turn that trend around with the Healthy, Hunger Free-Kids Act of 2010.
However, one study shows the new rules governing what kids can and can't eat in the cafeteria are resulting in a lot of waste.
In a developing story, Tina Shively reports on what one local district is doing about it.
The Gates-Chili district was just recognized by the USDA for excellence in nutrition and physical education.
It all begins with the daily menu, and not only making sure it meets requirements, but also making sure students are actually eating it.
Healthy wraps, fresh carrots, and seemingly bottomless bowls of fresh fruit.
Today's school lunches aren't as you remember them, and that's due in part to new guidelines imposed by the USDA.
Lunches now contain fewer calories, smaller portions, and more fruits and vegetables.
They're changes hard for some kids to stomach.
Gates-Chili Senior David LaPietra is adjusting to the changes. He said "I can see why they do it, but sometimes it's kind of annoying."
"A lot of parents have this idea that kids just go in there and do what you expect them to; buy the lunch eat the whole lunch," said Dr. David R. Just of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. "Kids don't eat their whole lunch. Kids don't eat much of their lunch at all in some cases."
Dr. Just co-authored the only known study on what American students are throwing away since the federal guidelines went into place last September.
They found kids are throwing away twice as much as last year. That's a 97% increase in what's going in the trash.
Dr. Just added "We knew that we needed to take care of the availability problem because there were a lot of school districts across the country that don't offer fruits and vegetables with every meal...But it didn't quite take care of the motivation to eat it issue, which is still something we need to work on."
No one knows that better than Debbi Beauvais.
She is the supervisor of School Nutrition at Gates-Chili, and the national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "If the food doesn't look appealing, we're already gonna assume it doesn't taste good."
To help solve the waste issue across the U.S. she's starting here at home.
One trick? Providing a made to order wrap station.
Beauvais also changed how she serves vegetables.
Items placed in plastic cups didn't move, but when they were served in those red and white boats traditionally reserved for french fries, kids gobbled them up.
At the core of this issue are rules from thecounty and state Health Departments. Once an apple for example is placed on a student's tray, they either have to eat it or toss it in the trash. No exceptions.
Making sure students make good choices on the line is also crucial because the government gives Gates-Chili six cents back for every well-balanced meal the district sells.
It adds up, and Beauvais is bracing for more changes that could make the problem even more obvious.
"Next year we have to double the portion sizes on fruits and or vegetables at breakfast. Six cents doesnt cover that doubling on portion sizes."
Gates-Chili does not weigh their garbage, and hasn't yet figured out how much money they're losing to waste.
Beauvais says she's doubled the amount of produce she orders, but she's not confident kids are actually eating double the fruits and vegetables.
Taxpayers are picking up the tab either way.
However, there is a possibility that the federal guidelines could change again.
March is School Nutrition Month, when administrators meet with the USDA and local legislators in the nation's capital.
They will discuss exactly how the menu restrictions are working where it matters, in our children's schools.