Let them eat snacks

Let them eat snacks says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in response to student protests against lower-calorie, low-protein school lunches.

School lunch trays are a bit lighter this year after Congress-approved calorie limits on school lunches went into effect in August. The new regulations, which were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity, have inspired protests and even a video parody from students who claim the reduced lunches are making them go hungry.

. . . Vilsack said the Obama Administration is working with school districts to create snack programs and encouraging parents to pack extra food for their active students to munch on before football practice or band rehearsal.

A new federal rule limits calories for school lunches — 650 calories in elementary school, 700 in middle school and 850 in high school. Cafeterias must serve twice as many fruits and vegetables while limiting proteins and carbohydrates. Students must take the fruit and vegetables, though they can’t be required to eat them.

For an average high school student, that means two baked fish nuggets, a cup of vegetables, half a cup of mashed potatoes, one whole grain roll and 8 ounces of fat free milk . . .

Linda O’Connor, an English teacher at Wallace County High School in Kansas, wrote the “We Are Hungry” parody after a colleague, Brenda Kirkham, posted a photo of her school lunch on Facebook, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

The lunch included one cheese-stuffed bread stick, a small dollop of marinara sauce, three apple slices and some raw spinach. . . . “I asked why the sauce had no meat and I was informed that due to the breadsticks containing cheese, the meat would put us over the guidelines for protein,” Kirkham wrote.

Wallace County students often do farm chores in the morning before school and play sports after school, O’Connor said. Two ounces of meat per day isn’t enough.

Last year, students got six chicken nuggets for lunch; this year, says Callahan Grund, a 16-year-old football player who’s featured in the video. This year, students got three chicken nuggets.

Students in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Kansas have organized school lunch boycotts, packing their own brown bags.

The 850-calorie limit seems high enough, even if students don’t eat the fruit and veg. Most families can afford to send an apple or an after-school PB&J for calorie-burning athletes. I wonder about limiting protein.

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Comments

  1. The regulations don’t mean that students can’t bring in lunches from home. I have to say bringing snacks, or even bringing a lunch from home makes the most sense.
    Students could also eat breakfast.
    Looking around at most students, they aren’t playing sports. They are however overweight. If we are going to use tax dollars to pay for students’ lunch, then the least we can do is make sure the food isn’t contributing to obesity (which tax payers are probably paying for through higher medicaid costs). Once you accept government money, then you have to understand there will be strings attached.

  2. My kids (3 and 6) are huge fruit and veggie eaters, to the point where I sometimes offer a dairy or peanut-butter based dessert to get some more calories and protein into them. I’ve also seen my 6-year old eat 1/2 of a pizza (ie the same as his dad). I think that there are lots of days that my kids would be hungry on 3 nuggets, even with a cup of fruit or veggie. They would barely have room for that volume of food at mealtime, but would be hungry and wanting a snack an hour later. Sometimes kids need calorie-dense food.

    I’ve said it before, but there are only 4 types of biological macromolecules, so everything that you eat is made of carbs, protein, fats, and nucleic acids (found in every cell, not a major source of calories). It’s not possible to go low carb, protein, and fat unless you just don’t eat. I wish more people understood this.

  3. I had soccer players, wrestlers and a swimmer, both on varsity teams and club travel teams. Eating more than a small serving of fruit or a handful of cheerios between school and strenuous after-school practice makes kids (anyone) sick. Lunch is the right timing for a substantial meal. Mine never bought lunch, but usually took a homemade grilled chicken sandwich with lots of lettuce and green peppers on a wholegrain roll, plus fruit, carrot sticks and perhaps baked chips or goldfish or a homemade cookie. The boys were doing conditioning before school and soccer or wrestling practice after – plus a club practice several times a week. At 13, my DD was swimming about 6 miles a day; two hours before school and two hours after school, followed by an hour of weight training. They were pure lean muscle (and did not cut weight for wrestling) and they needed fuel – as did their teammates. My kids would have been fainting from hunger on the lunch menus above.

    There are admittedly many overweight and obese kids, but there are also more serious, full-time, elite athletes than there used to be. Like everything else about public schools, the one-size-fits-all approach does not fit most kids. I am appalled that many schools now prohibit kids from bringing food from home; a clear violation of parental rights. My recommendation; shut down all of the federal school food programs and leave the food issue up to individual schools/districts; IF, what and when.

    • The limitations on protein are completely wrong-headed.  This is going to push the menu toward carbs, which are the cause of the obesity epidemic in the first place.

      A sane menu would be heavy on protein, associated fats, monounsaturated oils like olive oil, and green vegetables for vitamins and fiber.  Grains have a bit of protein but are mostly just calories, and calories which boost insulin levels at that.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        Yep. We should be filling these kids up on fatty proteins and vegetables slathered in butter and cream sauces like the French do. We should also allow them some watered down vino. ;-) That would surely relax them for classes after lunch. Carbohydrates like bread, rice, potatoes, and pasta should be kept to a minimum and only in the whole grain form. They offer minimum in nutrients and spike the blood sugar.

  4. L. C. Burgundy says:

    Oh, good, more carb-heavy meals that leave kids bouncing for 20 minutes and then comatose thereafter. The lunch described is a crime against nutrition. Give the kids some meat! Sheesh.

    • Which carb-heavy meal ?

      • L. C. Burgundy says:


        The lunch included one cheese-stuffed bread stick, a small dollop of marinara sauce, three apple slices and some raw spinach

        Mostly carbs/sugar (bread, fruit) and little else of nutritional consequence. I guess marinara sauce counts as a serving of vegetables. Very low in protein outside of the cheese. This doesn’t surprise me though, that sort of nutritional balance has been the government’s way of doing things for decades (and our aggregate state of health shows it.)

        • Stacy in NJ says:

          And, what kind of cheese are they serving? Is it real cheese which is fat and protein rich, or is it fake low-fat cheese with fillers high in carbohydrates? Europeans eat real cheese; we eat fake cheese like those in the dairy section of most grocery stores.

  5. GEORGE LARSON says:

    Some of the great mutinies in history were started by or partly about food.

    Potemkin
    Kiel
    Spithead

    Unless those proposing the changes actually eat these lunches I think they should back off.

  6. Funny, it doesn’t look as though the kids in the video have missed many meals.

    • Actually the debate is framed in terms of athletics and human performance. What sports did you letter in? And while we’re at it, are you actually implying that those kids could stand to lose a few pounds?

  7. Limiting protein is stupid, because that is what will keep kids full and able to focus. Lunches should be high in lean protein with moderate amounts of healthy carbs and healthy fats. Ditch the mashed potatoes and double the portion size of the baked fish nuggets (assuming that the breading is whole-grain).

  8. Obi-Wandreas says:

    I’m still struggling to lay my finger on that section of the Constitution that gives the federal government any authority over school lunches whatsoever.

    Word search….”lunch” – nope; “school” – nope; “education” – nope; “food” – nope

    This sort of ‘one size fits all’ bureaucratic idiocy is precisely why the federal government has a limited set of enumerated powers and is charged by the 10th Amendment to keep it’s nose out of everything else. From health care to the economic collapse triggered by the housing bubble, every major problem we face right now can be traced back to federal meddling in things that are none of their business.

    This is like arguing over the best way to load a lifeboat on the Titanic – it kinda misses the point.

  9. Obi-Wandreas says:

    I’m still struggling to lay my finger on that section of the Constitution that gives the federal government any authority over school lunches whatsoever.

    Word search….”lunch” – nope; “school” – nope; “education” – nope; “food” – nope

    This sort of ‘one size fits all’ bureaucratic idiocy is precisely why the federal government has a limited set of enumerated powers and is charged by the 10th Amendment to keep it’s nose out of everything else. From health care to the economic collapse triggered by the housing bubble, every major problem we face right now can be traced back to federal meddling in things that are none of their business.

    This is like arguing over the best way to load a lifeboat on the Titanic – it kinda misses the point.

  10. When I attended high school, we had the option of going off campus for lunch (Jack in the Box was right across from the football field), but the cafeteria served breakfast (egg /bacon sandwich, cinnamon rolls with frosting and nuts, cereal, milk (regular/chocolate or 2%), and the lunch was typical (pizza, sloppy joes, burgers, salad, etc)…

    Only difference back then (late 70′s) is that the home video platform and entertainment systems weren’t available. We were always playing football, basketball, riding our bikes, swimming, etc.

    Many a time I could recall on the weekend riding our bikes up to the local McD’s (about 2.5 miles each way), and getting lunch, then going to shoot hoops at the basketball park down the street, or going swimming at the park pool.

    Kids were just a lot more active back then, compared to today (IMO).

  11. I can honestly tell you that the school lunches aren’t whats causing childhood obesity. The computers, the tv and cell phones have caused this. When I was in school this wasn’t an issue. The issue was the fact that most of these children rely on this one meal a day they receive at school. I understand cutting calories but at least allow them healthier options so they can eat more. I will allow my child the option to take lunch or eat at school but if my child is still hungry I’ll make sure to feed them appropriately.