NEW ORLEANS -- After one year, some schools in the U.S. are dropping the healthier new federal lunch program. They say many students didn't like the whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and cafeterias were losing money.
But with the backing of researchers, the southeast Louisiana programs are a big success.
During lunchtime at Success Preparatory Academy on Bienville Street, gone were the sloppy joes and fatty burgers, replaced by children asking for fruit, veggies, whole grain rice and cookies, fat free milk.
"One time I looked at it and I'm like, 'I don't like it.' But then I tasted it and it was good," said fifth grader, Royce Wilson.
"If you eat more vegetables, you get bigger and stronger," said his classmate Tyrone Lucky.
"I'm less sleepy because I used to be really sleepy in class," added Rose St. Felix, who is also a fifth grader.
Researchers at the Tulane Prevention Research Center says there is a reason the more healthful guidelines for the national school lunch program are working in the greater New Orleans area. Along with a high number of children who qualify for federal reimbursement for the program, they did food tastings, had fun promotions and phased the changes in gradually, before they were required.
"A lot of the schools that went ahead and started adopting these higher guidelines are having greater success right now as opposed to the schools that didn't start that process until this past school year," explained Keelia O'Malley, Program Manager of the Tulane PRC.
The food servers saw the children's slow acceptance.
"At first, ... they didn't take to well to it, but after they got used to it, and they started seeing different things on the menu, then they started to grow on it," said Miranda ,one of the food servers.
And one group of sixth-grade boys swear they rather have mangoes, pineapple, peaches, and strawberries than pizza.
So if you build a new menu, eventually they will come.
"We do know that there's research showing it can take kids eight to 10 times of being offered a new food item, before they'll even try it," said O'Malley.
St. Tammany schools are leading the nation with 27 schools rated highest in the U.S. healthier schools challenge. Orleans Parish rated high as well, with 17 schools.