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School Lunch Reform, "The Hunger Games"

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At the start of the 2011-2012 school year, one would find the school lunch balanced, healthy, and appealing to students. Most of the food was homemade, there were so many choices, and students could build their lunch according to their dietary needs. Proportions were still appropriate, yet filling. In January 2012, the face of school lunch was changed forever. Whole wheat breads took the place of all white breads, including tortillas and pizza crust. Options like salad and fruit bars were taken away on certain days of the week. The school lunch reform should be eliminated because the food does not taste good, it’s higher priced for the ridiculously small portion sizes it offers, and it doesn’t meet everyone’s nutritional needs.

Seventy percent of students at one Wisconsin high school boycotted USDA school lunches. Similar “Brown Baggin It” boycotts have taken place all over the country. According to Nutritionist Morgan Spurlock, “The food is absolutely atrocious, and parents have no idea. Parents are giving their kids three dollars and saying, ‘Okay, see you later. Go off to school and have a good lunch.’” Sheila Skogen, mother of a daughter at Elk River Schools in Minnesota, voiced her serious concerns about the food her child is now eating in her local newspaper. “Please correct me if I’m wrong. In the past, they were only ‘offered’ the fruit/veggies, and it was up to them to make the healthy decision. So now I’m paying more money if she doesn’t take the fruit/veggies? Why? How much? Has that been explained?” Some may argue that most healthy foods are not tasteful but need to be eaten regardless. While that may be true, the fact of the matter is kids will throw away things that don’t taste good, especially in a cafeteria setting. Why should parents spend money for a lunch that their kids won’t even eat?

When portion sizes are being cut, why raise the price of school lunch? Prices in Missouri schools, according to the Missourian Times, have gone up ten cents for lunch and five cents for breakfast. In Connecticut, a student petition protesting the smaller portion sizes resulted in the school district abandoning the rules after “only a few days.” Even in schools where this isn’t yet evident, some reports show students are voting against the new USDA rules with their parent-provided dollars. Parents pay for expensive lunches, then end up paying more to buy food for in place of the lunch their children didn’t eat. Many have argued that if portion sizes are increased, there will be more calories added to the already high calorie lunch. Portion sizes may have gone down, but processed foods have gone up. 850 calories is a lot for the portions served in the lunchroom. Rather than using processed, high calorie-injected foods, why not use organic, home-grown foods?

The “One size fits all” approach that the USDA-approved reform has taken on is terribly wrong. Every teenager has a different metabolism and needs different amounts of food, including, but not limited to, student athletes. In New York, certified nutritionist Kim Thompson said she “recommends that student athletes bring extra food to school or buy extra food in the cafeteria.” Many students, especially athletes, continue to complain about their rumbling stomachs. “We Are Hungry,” a video that hit YouTube set to the tune of the popular ‘We Are Young’ by Fun, was created by a football player, Hunter Wishek. He claims to weigh 210 pounds and require 4,700 calories to maintain his rigorous training regimen. How could he possibly meet those needs on a sad 850-calorie lunch? Most student athletes need at least 2800 calories each day. Some of these athletes go to lift weights early in the morning, grabbing something to eat as they go out the door. Most do not return home to eat breakfast, so they have to wait until lunch to eat. Following the release of school, practices usually last about 2 hours. In cases like these, athletes have only consumed about ? of their daily calories by 4:30 pm. At Mukwonago High School in Wisconsin, for instance, football players, who burn at least 3,000 calories a day, led a boycott of the new federally mandated school lunch calorie limits, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Seventy percent of the 830 Mukwonago High students who normally buy lunch instead packed their own lunches in protest. There are some who are against this fact, like Marion Nestle, professor of food studies and nutrition at NYU. “Let me just say this,” she says, “eight-hundred fifty calories ought to be plenty—far more than enough—to tie a kid over until after school.” While that may be true, is the goal here really to simply feed kids 850 calories and be done? Or is it more about truly caring for the needs of the rising generation? If kids do not receive what they need, performance in school is bound to go down. Eventually, like a car without gas, kids will cease to work at all.

In conclusion, the school lunch reform as implemented by the USDA should be removed. The food does not taste good, and kids won’t eat what they don’t like when they have a choice. Any caring parent would know the truth of that statement. School lunch is higher priced in comparison to the reduction of food that has occurred. Why should parents have to pay for lunches that don’t satisfy their children’s needs, especially during the recession that is taking place in the United States? Not all students’ nutritional needs are being met. Failure to satisfy these requirements will eventually result in poor performance in school and an inability to do well in sports and other extracurricular activities. For those who are still not on board with the whole idea of eliminating these lunches, listen to the words of students themselves: “I guess that I, I just thought maybe we could find a way not to starve today..... Tonight we are hungry, set the policy on fire, it can burn brighter than the sun.”



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Kate said...
Feb. 7 at 10:05 pm
I understand, I am forced to eat a salad every day because I am gluten free and can't have anything else. I am on free lunches though and can't afford to bring or buy extra food. So I am ussually starving most of the time.
 
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