The Overregulation of School Lunches



Michele-OBy Jennifer Crull

If you haven’t taken the time recently to search on YouTube about the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, then you may have missed a video that was posted a couple of months ago called “We Are Hungry.” This satirical look at the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act gives all of us a laugh or two, but when you take a closer look at the legislation, the provisions placed upon the schools, child-care providers, and adult-care providers are overreaching and intrusive and at some levels discriminating towards all kids not obese. Part of the chorus of this parody is “Tonight, we are hungry; set the policy on fire.” This is exactly what needs to happen.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states, “In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.” While this is a very alarming number of children that are overweight in our country, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is not the solution to this problem. I understand why Michelle Obama has taken on this as her project, and I think most people supported her “Let’s Move” program. This legislation covers many different components, but for this BRIEF we are going to look at the most publicized part of the legislation, which is the school-lunch program.

While I think most of us support healthier meals at school for our children, we also need to take into consideration many different facts. This idea that one size of calorie intake fits all does not work. Currently the calorie intake is broken down into three categories: grades K-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. When schools are preparing lunch for our students, grades K-5 are allowed to have a maximum of 650 calories, for grades 6-8 the maximum is 700 calories, and for grades 9-12 the maximum is 850 calories.  Now our children are only allowed to have two ounces of meat a day, and only fat-free and low-fat milk are allowed to be served with this meal.  Last time I checked, these are growing children.

The Website HealthyChildren.org, which is run by the American Academy of Pediatrics, lists the following calorie intake for children for the day:

*For active children, calorie requirements may be greater.

I have to say I feel sorry for the teachers who have the middle school boys in class for the last couple periods of the day; they have to be crabby from being hungry. This Website also points out that by the time children reach adolescence “as many as 20 to 30 percent of them have completely given up the morning meal.”

So 20 to 30 percent of them are not eating breakfast, and now for boys’ lunch can dip to 31.8 percent of their total calorie intake. Wow! No wonder they are hungry, and when teenagers are hungry they usually rush to junk food for it is easy to get. I am not sure what the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has accomplished other than decreasing our children’s energy levels. This is considering normal children who will most likely have a meal for supper when they are home, but what about the children who don’t have that hot meal waiting for them at home? Also what about the children who are active in sports, who have practice after school and whose needs are even higher than those shared above? These students are also going to be distracted during the day by their hunger.

So what is the solution to the overreaching regulations from the USDA? Congressman Steve King (R-IA) and Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) have introduced H.R. 6418, No Hungry Kids Act. In a press release from Congressman King’s office:

The bill was introduced in response to recently released school lunch standards from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that have left children around the nation hungry during their school day due to extreme calorie rationing. The “No Hungry Kids Act” repeals the USDA rule that created the new standards, prohibits the USDA’s upper caloric limits, and will protect rights of parents to send their children to school with the foods of their choice.[9]

Luckily, many children have parents who will fix lunches and send them to school with enough to eat, but what about the parents who can’t afford to send a lunch every day with their child? While they may seem minor, the regulations that have been put into effect here ignore children who have medical conditions that require a certain calorie intake or hungry children. The real problem is that it is time for the government to stop being intrusive and regulating our personal lives. If Michelle Obama would have just gone with her “Let’s Move” campaign I don’t think people would have been up in arms about what she was doing, but now telling my child what and how much they are allowed to eat is wrong. Last time I checked, that was my job as a parent.

I ask everyone to take the time to make your voices heard in Washington, D.C. Take the time to write to the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack or the Undersecretary of Food and Nutrition Services Kevin Concannon.** Let’s hope that level heads can make some changes with this over-regulating USDA and help our children get healthy meals, with the necessary calorie intake to be active and healthy.

**The address for both the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Undersecretary of Food and Nutrition Services Kevin Concannon is 1400 Independence Ave., SW; Washington, D.C. 20250.

Jennifer L. Crull is an IT Specialist with Public Interest Institute, Mount Pleasant, Iowa.  Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute.

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  • SJ

    The real problem is that it is time for the government to stop being
    intrusive and regulating our personal lives. If Michelle Obama would
    have just gone with her “Let’s Move” campaign I don’t think people would
    have been up in arms about what she was doing, but now telling my child
    what and how much they are allowed to eat is wrong. Last time I
    checked, that was my job as a parent.

    Exactly. It’s all about governmental control. In addition, the principles being enforced are dietary pseudo-science: fat and protein are bad. For thousands of years, how many of our ancestors were ever on low-fat diets, or severely restricted the amount of protein they ate? In spite of we’ve been told, saturated fat and cholesterol are not villains. (Remember how, after 70 years of saying that margarine was better for us than butter, the medical community suddenly did a 180 about 10 years ago? :) Yes, this whole new dictatorial policy smells a lot like spoiled milk! :P