Last week, Michelle Obama was telling voters to vote Democrat and then she gave them permission to “enjoy some fried chicken” afterwards. Too bad fried chicken is not on the public school menu because more students might be chowing down on a lunch they would actually want to eat.
Mrs. Obama’s comments might seem trivial but when you advocate a healthy lunch program like she has, comments about enjoying food seem somewhat hypocritical especially since a recent investigation found fewer students are buying school lunches. According to the Cox Washington Bureau more than 1 million fewer students are purchasing meals nationwide, since stricter guidelines were put in place in 2012.
These guidelines which have been advocated by Michelle Obama require more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in school lunches but they also limit calories, sodium, sugar, and fat intake. The problem is “it is a struggle to get kids to eat the foods and enjoy them”, said Dianne Pratt-Heavner who works at the School Nutrition Association.
The calorie requirement on meals has limited the size of entrees and students are not eating the lunches because they don’t fill them up or they are not appetizing. The program puts limitations on what is offered but does not take into account who it is offering it to. It’s the case of one-size-fits-all in education but this time instead of education policies, it’s with food.
Parents and students were outraged at a lunch that only consisted of a slice of cheese, a few slices of lunch meat, two small packages of crackers and two pieces of cauliflower. However, Kaytlin needs more than this lunch has to offer in nutritional value since she is 17 years old and eight months pregnant. The lunch barely meets the needs of one, let alone eating for two.
The federal nutrition standards that were put in place make no exceptions for students like Kaytlin or athletes who need a larger calorie intake. “We’re asking congress or USDA to provide a little breathing room to help school nutrition professionals plan meals that kids will eat”, said Pratt-Heavner. However, Mrs. Obama has said she does not want to loosen guidelines for the program.
Next year, congress will vote on reauthorizing the program but parents, students and many school officials hope changes will be made that provide more options to meet nutritional needs of a diverse body of students. Changes that should not come from a top-down, once-size-fits-all bureaucracy.
This tweet from comedian Paula Poundstone inadvertently describes the politics of the school lunch program.
I don’t want to be a kill joy, but I think we could lose the “I voted” stickers, and put the money into…maybe nutritious school lunches.
— Paula Poundstone (@paulapoundstone) November 4, 2014
It’s really not about politics or which way you voted. It’s about feeding our students healthy lunches that they want to eat by letting states and local school districts decide the nutritional needs of each school lunch program. But tell that to Michelle Obama who only lets you chow down after you display that “I voted” Democrat sticker.