The public school lunches mandated by Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act are making news, and not in a good way. Students have taken to social media to complain that the lunches are leaving them hungry and dissatisfied, posting photos that feature the less-than-desirable food options.
As many of you know, I love my healthy food. I live for it. But there are a few key problems with this program:
1) Once again, the government is imposing a one-size-fits-all approach. What will satisfy a sedentary teenager won’t do it for a football player. Active kids will need more calories, more healthy fats, and more energy. Calorie-cutting food options simply won’t work for everyone. Athletes aside, some kids don’t need to be on low-fat anything; they burn food up like crazy. Others may struggle with weight. Government is (once again) quick to forget that individuals have different needs depending upon lifestyle, metabolism, genetics, and more. We’re not robots; we’re people. And as a result, we are all different.
2) Cutting calories isn’t automatically synonymous with healthier food. Based on some images of the school lunches, this health food nut isn’t impressed. Half of a kiwi and a burger of some sort isn’t terribly balanced if a healthy meal is your goal. Three mini tomatoes and what appears to be a hot dog of some kind doesn’t scream healthy to me either. The program may have cut calories, but I wouldn’t call this stellar nutrition. What did taxpayers pay for again?
3) The Washington Times reports:
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a wide-ranging audit of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act nutrition standards last week, finding 48 out of 50 states faced challenges complying with Mrs. Obama’s Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The new standards led to kids throwing out their fruits and vegetables, student boycotts, higher lunch costs, and odd food pairings such as “cheese stick with shrimp” in order for schools to comply with the complicated rules.
The National School Lunch Program saw a sharp decline in participation once the healthy standards went into effect during the 2012-2013 school year. A total of 1,086,000 students stopped buying school lunch, after participation had increased steadily for nearly a decade.
Does that sound like success to you? I didn’t think so.
4) There is a way to make healthy food appetizing, and this isn’t it. I’m not opposed to better whole-food and organic choices that don’t have processed junk in them, including veggies and fruits. However, food needs to taste good or kids simply won’t eat it at school. Also, they’re kids. If you want to offer tasty, healthier snack options, fine. But give the kids a snack! (P.S.–Low-fat milk is not a snack.)
5) I didn’t see the food options featured on WhiteHouse.gov reflected in the images posted by students. However, even the items listed on the White House’s website are concerning. On what planet does one ounce of turkey with half an ounce of low-fat cheese constitute a submarine sandwich? A chef salad with one cup romaine, .5 oz low-fat mozzarella, and 1.5 oz grilled chicken? 1.5 ounces? Are they kidding me? No wonder these kids are starving!
6) The program cost over $11 billion in 2012. That would be one thing if kids were getting awesome, healthy food they loved. Instead, they are walking away from lunch lines more than ever. Many are going hungry, while others turn to vending machines. And it’s costing you a lot of money.
My advice? Parents, speak up. Loudly and clearly. Go up to schools and insist on speaking with administrators. Utilize social media to express your concerns. And don’t stop until you force a change.
Check out my commentary on this issue on Fox Business.
Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila