You can lead a kid to broccoli, but good luck making him eat it.

That's what area school districts are finding this year as they implement the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, aimed at providing students with more nutritious school lunches.

Unfortunately, the healthy fare doesn't always make it to the students' bellies -- they take it because they have to in order to get the low meal prices rather than pay the more expensive, a la cart rates for individual items.

What happens to the food?

Just what you expect -- it goes right in the trash, untouched.

We understand the idea here: Kids need to eat better, and school lunches are an obvious place to start.

But if what's happening in schools around York County is any indication of what's happening around the country, then an unintended side effect of Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act is a disgraceful waste of food on a mind-blowing scale.

That's on top of students' expected displeasure with the changes, which also include smaller portion sizes and the rationing of condiments such as salad dressing.

It seems school officials haven't quite decided how best to handle complaints from students forced to take food they have no intention of eating, other than to tell them they can throw away anything they don't like.

And the students certainly are doing that. Just take a look at the online video accompanying The York Dispatch report on the nutrition changes to see how much food is being tossed in the trash or garbage disposals.


Such waste is no solution.

Yes, there's a childhood obesity problem in this country, but there are still plenty of children going to bed hungry at night, too.

There has to be a way to balance the two.

Vonda Cooke, the state director of the food and nutrition division, said she hopes schools get more innovative in finding ways to overcome the challenges associated with the changes.

We hope so, too.

Is it possible, for instance, for schools to set up a cart where students could place the unwanted food after paying for it? Then at least the food could be served to another who actually wants and needs it.

Or schools could simply be allowed to change the pricing plans so students aren't punished financially for not eating their veggies. Simply offering the more nutritious options is a big improvement in itself.

This is an example of good intentions leading to awful consequences.

And it should be changed before our students become accustomed to the idea that it's OK to throw away perfectly good food.