School districts look for healthier lunch line options that kids will actually eat

In Liverpool Wednesday, Central New York school districts got a look at some of the newest lunch line menu options. There are low fat, whole wheat versions of classics like chicken nuggets and pasta - but districts have learned they need to meet both the new federal guidelines for healthier lunches and keep kids happy. Food service directors say the food can end up in the trash if kids don't find it appealing.

Districts say sometimes it's all in a name. The Syracuse City Schools got creative, coming up with the name "cowboy beans" before they even knew what would be in the menu option.

"Kids love cowboy beans," said Assistant Food Service Director Annette Marchbanks. "I think if we would have called it three bean side dish, they wouldn't have taken it but cowboy beans goes like crazy."

Schools have also learned that healthy snacks like low fat yogurt are more appealing to kids when they get a chance to add their own toppings. Even if those toppings are also good for you. Dennis Pedrotti from Upstate Farms said blueberries and raspberries are two of the most popular options for kids to add.

"It's a healthy snack and they really enjoy it. They finish it when they start going at it," said Pedrotti.

When it comes to school lunches, it's one part nutrition, one part marketing. A pizza made by Georgio Foods with whole wheat and beans wasn't a big hit with kids in testing until they changed the name.

"When you present it as black bean or red bean, they don't want to touch it. But if you say the name Southwest or Roja Fiesta - that's what we're calling the red bean - they'll try it," said Paul Tucker from Georgio Foods.

450,000 students in New York City will soon be seeing chick pea based falafel dishes on the lunch line. The chick pea based option might have been a tough sell twenty years ago but distributors say today's kids are often more open to new foods.