You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force him to drink. That old adage is proving true when it comes to improving school lunches. The Los Angeles Times recently examined the failure of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s introduction of healthy lunches. We’ve seen before the consequences of taking away chocolate and strawberry milk in schools, but now L.A. schools have taken menu changes in the name of health even further. The new menu includes vegetarian creations such as curries, quinoa salads, and Pad Thai noodles, which predictably drew praise from the misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

But are students really better off with fewer choices? The kids left hungry don’t think so.

The problem, as explained by many students, is that the district-approved food is “nasty.” When faced with the new menu, it isn’t hard to see why two high school juniors conceded to eating more junk food now than last year. One principal likened the menu changes to Prohibition, while other adults have been found selling “contraband” candy, chips, and instant noodles to starving students. Black markets have popped up before when bans have been placed on favorite foods, because the “forbidden fruit” approach doesn’t change students eating habits. As one observer noted, a “Willy-Wonka-meets-Casablanca” paradigm emerged.

PCRM and like-minded green celebrity chef Jamie Oliver have encouraged and praised schools to cut traditional food items, yet the replacement menu items only seem to excite the regulators, not the students. You can lead a student down the lunch line, but you can’t force him or her to eat tofu Pad Thai.