BALTIMORE – Researchers are finding that Washington bureaucrats can get children to “choose” healthy foods, but getting students to eat them is another task altogether.

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health observed 274 children in kindergarten through second grade in 10 New York City public schools.

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A “chicken-and-vegetable entrée was on the menu,” according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The organization reports:

They watched to see whether each of the six-through-eight-year-olds chose a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, low-fat milk and/or a lean protein, taking before and after photos of the trays.

Researchers found:

* 75 percent of the kids chose the lean protein (the entrée).
* 58 percent chose a fruit and 59 percent chose a vegetable.

And among those who put the various types of food on their trays:

* 75 percent took even a single bite of the protein.
* 24 percent ate a bite of their vegetables.

In other words, 56 percent of students ate a protein. Worse, only 14 percent of all students ate even “a bite” of vegetables.

“We have been thinking that if young children choose healthy food, they will eat it,” Susan M. Gross, PhD, MPH, a research associate in the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says.

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“But our research shows that is not necessarily so.”

According to the researchers, more students will eat vegetables and whole grains in a quieter cafeteria.

“The noise level, supervision; how many kids were in the cafeteria that day; the length of their lunch period; and the way the food is packaged, all determined how much a child ate off from their plate,” Medical Daily reports.

Students were also more likely to finish their healthier food if a teacher ate with them.

The financial implications for so much wasted food is real for many schools.

EAGnews previously reported wasted food costs school districts an estimated $3.5 million per day.

“The food ended up in the garbage instead of the kids’ mouths,” Wisconsin’s Waterford Graded School District Superintendent Christopher Joch told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time.

Some schools are repurposing the discarded food as pig slop.

The pigs are enjoying “half-eaten tuna sandwiches and other food scraps students discard during their lunch periods” as part of a new recycling program established by the town of Cumberland, reports.