It took over fifteen years, but the USDA finally kicked off some major changes to school lunches this September — however, not everyone is thrilled with the changes. Students across the country are now instigating school lunch revolts, food strikes and other nonsense aimed at the new school lunch policy. One group of students, from Sharon Springs, Kansas have even posted a video on YouTube called “We Are Hungry.” The video, which has reached 993,594 views as of this post, shows students fainting in gym class, crawling on the ground unable to walk and buying junk food, all apparently due to them being starved to death by the new school lunch policies. Beyond the video, these students have started a Facebook page designed to allow people to voice their complaints about the new policy. Honestly, I give these teens props for coming up with innovative and peaceful ways to fight against policies they don’t like, but it’s seriously distressing to see that they’re fighting so hard to get poor quality food and huge portions back. But what’s most alarming isn’t the fact that students are protesting the new healthier school lunches, but that adults, who should know better, are supporting their efforts. Teachers helped the kids write and produce the “We Are Hungry” video and parents across the country are sounding off on posts and Facebook saying that the new policy is starving kids. Shame on all of these adults. This is ridiculousness beyond anything I’ve ever seen and a perfect example of what happens when you don’t raise your kids on healthy food. Keep reading to see why these school lunch boycotts are unfounded.
Is the new school lunch policy starving kids?
In a word no. Students and parents who are against the new policies keep saying stuff like, “Portions are smaller” and “There’s not enough calories in the lunches” and “I want more protein in my lunch!” Yet none of these arguments stack up. Below are some myths floating around the web.
New school lunches cut calories: The new school lunch policy (pdf) mandates MORE calories than the previous school lunch policy did, with a range of 750-850 calories for teens. The old policy allowed only 825 calories per meal. Calories have gone up not down in school lunches.
New school lunches lack protein: School lunches must provide 1/3 of a child’s protein needs either in meat or meat alternative form, which is 100% appropriate, considering kids should also be eating breakfast, dinner and snacks each day. The National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine notes that teens need about 0.71-0.73 g/kg/d of protein (pdf). For a kid at a healthy weight, this would be about 46 to 52 grams of protein per day. One ounce of lean meat, chicken, or fish, low-fat cheese, a cup of milk, two tablespoons of peanut butter, an egg or half cup of beans equals six to eight grams of protein per serving. Kids get about 2-4 grams of protein per serving of whole grain breads and cereals and about 1-3 grams in a serving of most vegetables. With these figures in mind, a typical school lunch menu shows that kids are getting a decent amount of protein from school lunches – the rest of their daily protein needs should come from breakfast, dinner and snacks.
New school lunch portions are smaller: As noted above, new school lunches have more, not fewer calories. The big difference here is that the calories are healthier. While a larger bulk of calories in school lunches used to come from meat, fries and pizza, now more of those calories come from veggies, fruits and whole grains, as they should. Yes, portions of meat and fries and such have shrunk, but portions of fruits and veggies have grown. Portions haven’t gotten smaller, they’ve simply been more fairly distributed among the food groups.
Kids burn tons of calories per day: At the center of this debate are parents and kids spouting off that football players and other student athletes burn countless numbers of calories per day, thus, need bigger lunches. Not true. A small number of kids in America are active. Most kids today get very little exercise. The kids who made the “We Are Hungry” video are the exception, not the rule. 18% of teens in the United States are obese and another 15%+ are overweight or on their way to becoming overweight. A recent major study shows that abdominal obesity, or belly fat, in adolescent boys is up 65% from 1998, while adolescent girls have increased their belly fat by 70%. The CDC notes that one in five U.S. teens has an unhealthy cholesterol level and that in almost all cases, teens have high cholesterol because they’re overweight not due to some weird health problem. Most teens eat too much and don’t exercise and it’s a major problem. In fact, if nothing changes in the U.S. researchers estimate that more than one in five young people will be obese by 2020.