Many schools are back in session this week. With it comes the dilemma for parents: Do I pack a lunch or let my kids eat what the school serves? When I was in high school the food was actually pretty good, it was mostly home cooked and I ate it the majority of the time. On the few days where I didn’t like what was being served, I brought a sack lunch. I was a very active and healthy kid and needed a full well-balanced meal to get me through the school day as well as sports practice after classes was over. I grew up to be a not-as-active but still healthy adult. I don’t think school lunches were detrimental to my development. Apparently though, the USDA thinks that it’s the schools who should take the blame for overweight children today.
The following came from Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch. I happen to agree completely with Debbie’s view, but tell me what you think.
Please hand me my soap box….thanks. As I climb up on this block, I run through my mind the reasons that I have not made this blog a political platform. I don’t like to denounce government programs, endorse political candidates or spout points or counter-points to current events. But, dangit, I’m MAD….
What makes me mad enough to go against my policy so that I will use my Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch blog to talk about the USDA? The new school lunch guidelines as announced by USDA. Frankly, this has been stewing in my brain for a few months. My husband is on the school board and told me that the cooks for our school have had to put in extra hours this summer to clarify the new regulations and plan for the changes they must make. So I immediately looked up the rules and talked to our school cooks. Here is what I’ve found:
The new guidelines for High School Students lunch:
- Limit total weekly protein (meat and meat alternatives) to a maximum of 10-12 oz/week
- Limit total calories to 750-850 per day
- Limit milk to 5 servings per week
- Mandate a set portion of various vegetables and fruits
- Mandate switching to whole grains
On the surface, I don’t think these things appear so wrong. But these are the regulations for High School students. Now, let me tell you about my high school boys. I have two high school boys who are 6 feet tall and weigh 155 and 165 respectively. They both play all the sports that our small school offers, and work on our ranch before school, after sports practice and on weekends. They do not spend much time sitting in front of a television, computer or game station. They are healthy weights, muscular, and very active. In short, 800 calories is a SNACK to my boys!
I am totally against mandating hunger–I thought we were fighting against hunger?! I thought that school lunch is often the best meal of the day for many kids. So why are we cutting back on protein and the nutrients that meat provides? I believe that by the second hour after lunch rolls around, my boys will be hungry again if they do not have more than 2 ounces of meat and only 800 calories. Its proven that protein slows digestion, stabilizes blood sugar and helps to maintain energy.
Our classes are over at 3:30 pm and then the boys head straight to the locker room to change to football gear for a 2 hour physical practice. But if they haven’t eaten since noon–and then only fruits and vegetables with minimal protein–they will not have the energy to practice!
My biggest concern with this mandate on our school lunch program is that it takes NOTHING but age level into account. It doesn’t allow for physical activity level, weight or height. It doesn’t take into consideration that at a small school, most of the students are participating in sports–if they didn’t we wouldn’t have enough for a team! (As an aside, we have 18 boys playing 8-man football this year in our entire high school.)
Some moms will say, “Debbie, why don’t you just pack a lunch for them?”….but my response to this is WHY should I have to? We have always had excellent homemade lunches served at our school for a very low price. The regular price on our high school meals used to be $2.40/day. My boys would get a second carton of milk (charged an extra 35¢) and they could return for second servings of the main course or side dish after everyone else was served. I should not have to drive 30 miles to purchase lunch items at a grocery store to send with my students when they have been served an excellent meal in the past.
We do have an “open lunch” but there is only 25 minutes for the lunch period. That is not enough time for any student to drive to a restaurant to eat. We only have a local bar (which does serve a lunch) and a gas station for food in our town. The kids often drive to the gas station for a soda (it is not sold during the school day in the school) after they eat their lunch at school. I believe there will be more of that, and the kids will also pick up a package of chips or a candy bar to fill them up now!
I don’t believe this is the intent of the regulations. I really understand that the American society is overweight. But mandating our kids to eat more leafy greens and less lean meat at school is not going to solve the problem. Mandate physical education….put more PE back into our days! But don’t make our kids go hungry.
I’ll step off my soap box now, but I will be calling my congressmen, you can be sure! In the meantime, here are a few links for more information and insight.
- Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs; Final Rule
- Protein Recommendations for ChooseMyPlate.gov
- School Lunch not the key to obesity, Val Wagner
- 3 School Lunch Solutions, with Linky, Katie Pinke
- Does Your Child Fit the ‘One Size Fits All’ Lunch Program, Chris Chinn
- What the Hell, Michelle?, Trent Loos