The new school nutrition requirements have been rolled out in schools across the country. While the requirements have met with a positive response from most, it is beginning to appear that not all school lunches are created equally under the new standards.
The school lunch program First Lady Michelle Obama championed, the one she claimed would provide “more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and less fat and sodium and set sensible calorie limits” is instead leaving some students hungry. And they aren’t being quiet about it.
There are students and parents who are fed up and have posted pics of the skimpy meals being dished out at schools on Twitter.
Now one school in Wisconsin is taking it a step further. D.C. Everest High School senior Meghan Hellrood organized “pack-a-bag” day, where students brought in their own lunches to boycott the cafeteria’s lunches, which she says consist of “small portions of very processed foods.”
Meghan told Fox News that students “are sometimes given a box of raisins as the fruit portion.” She contends that the choices aren’t any healthier overall, and that:
“[Athletes] are not performing as well as they could, and people’s test scores are going down because they’re hungry throughout the day.”
Students at the school “came together to make bagged lunches for kids who can’t afford to bring their own lunch every day, and they have received donations from the community.”
Bringing a lunch from home is one way to get around the inadequate school lunches, as long as the government or unions stays out of lunch bags. There have been incidents in North Carolina and Illinois where students’ packed lunches have been confiscated by school officials who claim they don’t meet nutritional guidelines.
A quick internet search and a thorough read of comments on various reports will tell you right away that not all school districts are serving the new lunches the same way. There do seem to be some “interpretations” of the new standards that don’t look like filling lunches for growing teenagers. Students in other school districts are very satisfied with the meals being served in cafeterias. The problems that are being reported don’t seem to be about the fruit and vegetable requirements. They are, instead, about the size of the portions which in some areas have been reduced pretty drastically. In addition, reports from some athletes who participate in heavy workouts and training who need more calories are explaining that they aren’t being permitted extra food to meet their caloric needs. High schoolers and parents are speaking up and trying to effect some needed changes in those districts that are in question.
FoodFacts.com is absoutely in favor of getting healthier, more nutritious foods onto our kids lunch trays. We’re not quite sure why there seems to be portion size differences between school districts. But we do think, that like with so many other things, a one-size-fits-all definition may not be the way to go here. It’s been pointed out that for many children here in the U.S., school lunch may, in fact, be their only meal of the day. Athletes have a different calorie profile than non-athletes. And honestly, for any growing teenager, some of the meals pictured aren’t going to keep them satisfied throughout the day. So if that more nutritious lunch isn’t going to help them feel full, they are going to look to add calories in other ways, most likely by eating junk food the first chance they get outside of school. And that’s not great either. The USDA would be well served by taking an individual look at the districts that are complaining and perhaps providing some education regarding compliance with the new standards in ways that will keep more high schoolers more satisfied so that they have the fuel they need to learn and stay as active as possible throughout their days.