That's the lesson I get from Ed Bruske's latest report from the school lunch front, spending time in school kitchens from DC to Berkeley. Apparently roasting vegetables helps, and camouflaging them within the recipe also helps, but at the end of the day school kids won't eat them.
Although the school lunch reformers Ed talks to retain their optimism, I wonder. If kids are used to snacks, and they're living in a society which gives them the right to say what they like and which honors their decisions, what's the use? Maybe in 10 years or so the foodies will have evolved a set of recipes which are nutritious, cheap, and eaten by kids. But maybe not.
I remember (vaguely) my own school days. We had a kitchen where the food was prepared. The cooks were neighbors, sometimes mothers. The food was standard 1950's fare, meat loaf, liver, etc. Almost all the time I carried my lunch--a sandwich, fruit, maybe carrots, and milk. So I don't remember how much choice you had in the cafeteria, but my impression is: very little. Adults had authority and you took what you were served.
Unless and until we're willing and able to deprive kids of their "right to choose", I'm afraid the school lunch people are rolling a rock uphill.