In January, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and first lady Michelle Obama revealed new standards for school lunches, designed to reduce calorie intake and help kids eat more nutritious foods. But some students say the requirements — in particular the one that sets calorie maximums for school lunches at 850 for high school kids — has left them hungrier, not healthier. The new standards came after the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was backed by the first lady as a component of her Let's Move! Campaign and signed into law by President Obama in 2010.
"As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet. And when we're putting in all that effort, the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria. When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won't be eating the kind of fatty, salty and sugar foods that we try to keep them from eating at home. We want the food they get at school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables," Obama said in support of the new plan.
What could be wrong with that? Enough to make a YouTube parody in protest, according to students and teachers at Wallace County High School in Kansas, who created the "We Are Hungry" music video that blasts the new guidelines.
"There's just not enough" food, said 16-year-old Callahan Grund, a football player and star of the video, told the Wichita Eagle. "When you have chores in the morning and football practice after school, you need energy … This doesn't cut it," he added.
The first lady hasn't responded directly to the criticism, but Kansas education and nutrition officials say that portion sizes at most districts haven't actually changed, and that students in Wichita, for instance, can get more food at lunch this year because there's "a wider array of options, a la carte items and nearly unlimited servings of fruits and vegetables."
The real conflict seems to be about what exactly lunch is supposed to be — enough food to get kids through the next few classes, or enough to keep them fueled up for whatever they might do with their after-school hours? Cheryl Johnson, director of child nutrition and wellness for the Kansas Department of Education, told the Eagle that the claim that school lunches don't provide enough to keep high school athletes energized through practice are unfair and misguided. "It's one meal. It is designed to meet the nutrient needs of an average student of that age group, but it's never going to meet the needs of students who burn far more calories," she said, adding, "The guidelines don't say this is the only food a student should have all day."
Read more at the Wichita Eagle.