(NaturalNews) The Associated Press has reported that, after only one year, several schools may be dropping out of the healthy federal lunch program, a program that requires school meals to meet specific sodium and calorie intakes. Schools who follow these requirements, laid out by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, receive cash subsidies and foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, schools are encouraged to increase availability of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
But schools that have participated in the program cite a reduction in cafeteria revenue, and officials, such as Superintendent Gary Lewis of Catlin, Illinois, say that kids are just not interested in what they are serving. "Some of the stuff we had to offer, they wouldn't eat," said Lewis, whose district saw a 10 to 12 percent drop in lunch sales, translating to $30,000 lost under the program last year. (nydailynews.com)
Lunches Still Unhealthy and Kids Leave Hungry
According to school officials, kids are going hungry and buying more junk food to feed their hunger. This reaction comes as no surprise when one examines some of the meals being served in schools. Because schools are allowed choices in what specific foods are served as long as they meet the requirements, many schools have made adjustments that actually make lunches even less healthy. Kay E. Brown, who works for the Government Accountability Office, said that one district "reported that it switched from using shredded cheese on the chili dog to processed cheese sauce because it does not count as a meat alternate." (cnsnews.com)
A typical lunch at a high school in Tampa, Florida, is a serving of nachos with meat and cheese toppings, milk, juice, a cup of pear sauce and some vegetables. But the nachos alone comprise 476 calories, while high school lunch is capped at 850 calories under the new guidelines. The number of calories in that small portion of nachos doesn't leave much room for other filling foods (tampabay.com)
In contrast, a full plate of vegetarian black beans and rice is only 259 calories. Eliminating unhealthy choices leaves room for including more whole grains, beans and vegetables - the only way to appease children's hunger and meet the calorie requirements.
Schools reduce portions
Some schools have merely reduced the portion size of meals. Director of food and nutrition services in Bradenton, Florida, Sandra Ford, complains that they "haven't been able to find whole grain sandwich wraps that meet the weekly grain limits, so we've had to cut our wraps in half. How would you feel if suddenly your favorite sandwich was served on just half a wrap?" (cnsnews.com)
Obviously, feeding children less is not the answer. The FDA's nutritionists and food service directors in schools should know that putting children on a diet by cutting portions in half will not work to reduce obesity. Left unsatisfied, kids will resort to binging on junk food and overeating at dinner. Instead, the unhealthy food served in schools, such as chicken fingers and hamburgers, must be eliminated in order to leave room for healthier, filling choices. If exchanging real cheese with processed cheese on a chili dog is considered in line with the guidelines laid out by the federal government, it's no wonder we have a problem.
About the author: Jeff Hillenbrand and Hillary Feerick have been married for eighteen years and have two children, ages eight and nine. Jeff holds a BS in exercise physiology and nutrition. Hillary has been a teacher of writing and literature for twenty years and holds a BA and MA in English. Their combined expertise and experience raising healthy children prompted them to create a superhero that gets superpowers from fruits and veggies and solves mysteries at his elementary school. The Mitch Spinach Book Series has been featured across the country on numerous radio and television programs, and, according to NPR, "Mitch Spinach is to nutrition what Harry Potter is to wizardry."
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