"Middletown High School senior Lina Perez is one hungry athlete these days. Her school lunch used to carry her through, but those days are over. "By the time practice rolls in, I'm hungry."
|Starch, more starch, sugar, canned veggies, and 4 chicken nuggets!|
It is not just Perez or even just Middletown where student stomachs are rumbling with hunger. Across the mid-Hudson — across the country — students are finding lunches under new federal calorie guidelines leave them wanting more. There is even a YouTube video of students in Kansas feigning collapse at the lack of food.
At the root of the hunger pangs is first lady Michelle Obama's child obesity-busting lunch initiative known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Parents, nutrition experts, educators, administrators and politicians are choosing sides over the law, which has limited the calorie count of high school lunches to 850, a substantial portion of the federally recommended daily total for high schoolers, 2,000.
"My frustration is the fact that in talking to the kids and even the parents are calling us because the kids are coming home hungry," said Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood. "They may have fruits, vegetables that'll fill them up, but it doesn't ... stick to them. So within an hour, they're hungry again."
|Starch, fructose, unidentifiable veggies, and CHOCOLATE milk? Oh, but there's a miniscule sample of meat in there!|
Athletes said to face difficulty
While the legislation also sets new lunch portions for younger students, it's the big kids who seem to have the hardest time adjusting. They're limited to a little more than 2 ounces of protein and just over 2 ounces of carbs, but they can have unlimited amounts of fruits and vegetables.
While nutritional standards for school lunches have existed for decades, they had not been strictly enforced until the new federal law took effect at the start of the school year. Before, if hungry children wanted an extra slice of cheese or an extra meatball, all they had to do was ask, said Eileen Goodman, Middletown's director of food services.
Those days are gone; thus, there are complaints from students and others.
|So where's the meat? Oh, you mean those 4 little raviolis are it?|
"It's not (enough) food that will get them through a football practice," said Goodman. "It's especially difficult with athletes because you know that they can eat three times what you're giving them. Cookie-cutter lunches for everyone don't cut it."
More than 73 percent of Middletown students get free or reduced-price lunches; of them, Eastwood estimated half to three-quarters depend on school food for their daily nutrition and might not get adequate food at home. There are about 1,450 high school students in Middletown's school lunch program.
New breakfast standards ahead
School districts have been phasing in the new standards since the law was passed in 2010. Whole milk has been replaced with low-fat and nonfat milk. More whole grain breads and pastas are being offered, while many empty-calorie snacks and sugary drinks are gone.
At Kingston High, the new portions have also met with some resistance. "They don't really want to eat their vegetables, because they'd rather have two slices of pizza," said Ed Carelli, Kingston's director of food services. "It's the older kids. The little kids are fine."
|Starch, sugar, and overcooked broccoli--YUM!|
Carelli explained that hungry students receiving free or reduced-price lunches have been known to get back in line for seconds on entrees, which are not discounted.
Some Republican lawmakers, upset over the portions, are calling for the law to be repealed.
The Obama administration championed healthier school lunches in response to findings that one-third of America's children and teens are either overweight or obese.
"The amount of food on a kid's plate is not much different than in years past — it is simply healthier," said U. S. Department of Argiculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon. He encouraged students who want additional calories to have more servings of fruit, vegetables and low-fat milk.
Spokesmen for the USDA explained that the agency is also working with specific schools that are in need of "greater flexibility." Those options include afternoon snacks or dinner programs. Not only do the regulations appear to be here to stay, but new standards will be put in place next year for the breakfast program.
Goodman, who recently spoke to the Middletown school board about the standards, asked for time to talk with students to provide them with food for thought. "There's a need for nutritional education to get the kids to understand and get the parents to understand at this point," she said.
|...and they wonder where childhood obesity comes from...|
So instead of having more protein and/or fat to hold over their hunger, they're encouraged to load up on the SUBSIDIZED foods--the non-fat dairy and the hunger-inducing starches. Now that we know the dairy cows are being fed gummy worms and junk food to replace grain feed, exactly how nutritious is that milk NOW? It's just as full of sugar as the pasta and bread! Is it any wonder the kids are still hungry after lunch? School is jamming them full of sugar! Do any of the pictured meals look like something to carry a growing teenager athlete through the day? They don't eat this at home, so why expect them to eat it at school?