Governor Branstad says recent changes in school lunch menus can help Iowa reach his goal of becoming the healthiest state in the country. “More home-grown fruits and vegetables and more whole grain items is clearly what is needed — along with good exercise,” Branstad says.

But critics say the changes aren’t going over well with the students, and more food is being thrown away. Registered dietician Teresa Nece is teaching a class at Iowa State University about food service management. She says give these new menus “time” to work.

“In schools we have to teach habits,” she says. “…To make that type of a change — to increase fruits and vegetables to students — we really have to look at how long does it take a student to learn to like something and science tells us it can takes as many as a dozen times for children to learn to like a new food item.”

The governor suggests kids can embrace changes in the school lunch menu, if it’s presented in the right way.”What I find is when you really get kids involved in this, they become enthusiastic about doing the right thing and recognizing that this is something that will help them throughout their lives.”

David Stark, president and chief operating officer of Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, says the changes have been a topic in his home. “Ask my four kids about the fewer desserts in their school menu this year — they’re disappointed,” Stark says. “I’m thrilled, as their dad, that that’s happening and we’ve got to do more of that.”

Stark says he and his wife haven’t been the most popular soccer league parents over the years because for treats they brought slices of fresh oranges. But Stark says his own children are starting to embrace the changes in their school lunch menu and recently raved about the fresh raspberries they were served.

Stark, Nece and Branstad made their comments during a news conference on a related topic, improving the equipment in school kitchens so staff can prepare food that’s more appetizing and attractive to students.