School districts around the U.S. are trying to figure out how to meet new federal nutrition guidelines for school lunches while also offering meals their students will eat. In some schools, the change is a struggle.
Last week, students at a Wisconsin high school showed lunch ladies what they thought of the smaller portions and menu offerings. Around 70 percent of the Mukwongan High School student body boycotted the cafeteria, complaining that the calorie cap required under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act leaves some of the bigger teens hungry and unable to perform physically and academically.
Changes to the lunch menu haven’t been easy. There are calorie limits based on age, for example, and foods contain less sugar and salt. Offerings include more whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. Only low-fat or non-fat milk is available. For teens, lunches are capped at around 850 calories.
One of the Wisconsin boycotters, a 6-foot 3, 210-pound linebacker and AP student said he doesn’t get enough to eat at lunch. He told the Milwaukee Sentinel [via Fox News] that the lunch doesn’t prepare him for the 3,000 calories per day that he burns during his football team’s daily three-hour practice and weightlifting.
Local officials, even those who support the healthier options, say the new guidelines don’t take into account the various lifestyles of the students. Students were also asked to fill out cards with their specific complaints about the lunches, which officials say they will send the cards and parent letters along to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who enforce federal nutrition guidelines for school lunches.
The new school lunch rules are a big overhaul of school lunches and a good one, and it’s not surprising that there are some bumps in the road. What I like is that instead of begging to go back to deep dish pizza and fries as a menu option, the school appears to still want to work with the new rules.
You’d think of a linebacker need to make up for 3,000 calories because of workouts, that could be something that’s handled at practice or at least by the coach or the football program, if not at home. The school’s head of cafeteria is right when she says that home life also plays a role in creating healthier kids.
But that’s not something she or school’s or the federal government can dictate — they can only educate on those matters, educate and role model. If fries and nuggets aren’t good enough for school lunches anymore, that’s a start.