YOU can lead a horse to water, said our elders, but you can't make it drink.
Well, it turns out the federal government can direct every school in the country to serve good nutritional choices, but the result is the same:
You can't make students eat it.
The Kanawha County school system has about 30,000 students. About half qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
Washington gives the system about $8.8 million a year to provide meals to those students. And where federal money flows, federal guidelines apply.
Taste doesn't necessarily follow.
The feds and the state Department of Education have ordered changes: Heat-and-serve meals may be served only twice a week. Cooks must prepare meals from scratch the other three days.
There may be no more than 500 milligrams of sodium at breakfast and 1,100 milligrams at lunch, etc., etc., etc.
The result? Not good, according to the students and cooks who packed a special meeting of the Kanawha County Board of Education last week.
The Daily Mail's Amber Marra reported "intense disapproval" of the cafeteria food.
"We don't like it and we are willing to take a stand and tell you we don't like it,' " said Rachel Sizemore, a junior at Riverside High School.
Cooks said they aren't trained to cook huge quantities of food from scratch. They find it extremely difficult to cook large quantities of pork and chicken three times a week and maintain it at the proper temperature.
Furthermore, food shipments often don't include the ingredients called for in the recipes.
Take "Cluckers" for example. They're supposed to be scrambled eggs with peppers, onion and cheese in warm pita bread.
"The only problem, according to cook Toni Hibbs of Andrew Jackson Middle School, is that the pita bread hasn't come in yet," Marra wrote. "She has to substitute tortillas."
Kids are also getting pancakes and French toast sticks with no syrup, Salisbury steak with no gravy, and no ketchup anywhere.
"Are you throwing a lot of this food out?" asked board member Pete Thaw.
"The response from the crowd was a resounding, 'Yes,' " Marra wrote.
The board is looking into it.