School cafeteria food may be healthier these days, but new research from Virginia Tech shows a lot of it is going to waste.
A professor and student studied one elementary school in Montgomery County where kids threw away 44 percent of the food they were served.
Now they're spending the summer trying to figure out why.
They say what really has struck them is that this isn't purple mush the kids are being served; this is a lot of good quality, very fresh food that any parent would want them to eat.
That leads them to believe taste may not be one of the leading factors causing the kids to throw the food away.
This spring, student Lindsey Kummer and professor Elena Serrano went into a local elementary school for a week.
They're not allowed to tell us which one, but they weighed all the school cafeteria food thrown away by students in one pre-k and four kindergarten classes.
Preliminary numbers show 70 percent of the veggies, 44 percent of the milk, 40 percent of the entrees, and 30 percent of the fruits they were served were tossed.
They noticed that kids ate fruit that was sliced, but were more likely to throw out fruit that was whole, like apples.
They also say it was very loud in the cafeteria and it seemed like the kids were more interested in talking to each other than eating.
These are some of findings they plan on sharing when they meet with Montgomery County school leaders.
"If they can have a quiet time during lunch, have taste tests during school, and really talk to the kids and see what is causing the great amount of waste," Kummer said.
"To us it's really about consumption and waste, but it's also trying to change some of the culture around thinking it's okay to throw away so much food," Serrano said.
Based on their results, the total cost of the food waste for the entire week was $219.99.
That may not seem like much, but keep in mind that's just one grade level at one school for one week, so when you broaden that out, those numbers could get much higher.
Kummer says she plans to continue with this research for the next several years and is interested in trying to do the same study in middle and high schools.