New school lunches with their smaller portions and menu changes mandated by Washington are getting a failing grade by students here in the north country and across the country.
School districts in the tricounty region are reporting fewer lunch sales and more students complain about the lunches that have to meet new nutritional standards under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Action program, which was championed by first lady Michelle Obama as part of her campaign to reduce childhood obesity. Potsdam reported daily lunch sales are down about 25 percent. Sackets Harbor has seen a 10 percent decline. Participation has dropped in Watertown, Belleville Henderson, Lowville Academy and Central School and elsewhere.
The new standards demand more fruits and vegetables while limiting proteins and carbohydrates. Caloric intake based on grade level has been reduced. High school lunches must total between 750 and 850 calories compared to a minimum of 825 under the old standards. Elementary students who were allowed 633 calories are now limited to between 550 and 650 calories a meal. There are also limits on the amount of grains and proteins that can be served over a week.
Fruits and vegetables forced on students are instead ending up as waste in the garbage cans, at the expense of parents and taxpayers subsidizing the meals. Students have resorted to petitions, Twitter and Facebook to voice their complaints against the unsatisfying and unappetizing lunches that also cost more this year, since price increases were also mandated by Washington.
Smaller portions leave students hungry, which can affect learning. For many students, their school lunch might be their main meal that mom and dad rely on while theyre out of work to help feed the kids. Students are walking away from the meals, brownbagging it or bringing snacks to supplement breakfast and lunch, which can defeat the intent of the standards to encourage healthier eating habits. Fewer lunch sales mean a financial loss to schools.
The standards fail to take into consideration individual differences or needs. The student athlete who undergoes a rigorous after-school workout needs more than a sedentary classmate.
Students might yet adjust to the changes, but even more changes are coming in the next two years.
Once again, government bureaucrats have gone too far in dictating what is suitable for millions of students. Such matters are better left in the capable hands of local officials.