The National School Lunch Program

October 15-19th of 2012 has been designated as National School Lunch Week. This week is meant for communities across the nation to come together and spread the awareness for the importance of school lunches for the health of our kids. It is a very important time for school nutrition and there are big changes occurring in all school districts. If you have watched the news lately, chances are that you have heard multiple viewpoints regarding the changes to the school lunch program. With childhood obesity being the huge problem that it currently is in America, school nutrition is at the front line for both scrutiny and opportunity.  Recently, I had the opportunity to lecture for an Honors Nutrition course at West Virginia University (HNF 498). I took this as a chance to speak to the students about the most recent revision of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act entitled the “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.”

Ironically, one of the most targeted complaints is that kids are still hungry due to the addition of the calorie restrictions on school lunches regardless of the title, “Healthy HUNGER-FREE Kids Act of 2010.” Interested to see how some of the students feel? Watch this video that a group of high school students and teacher from Kansas made entitled, “We Are Hungry.” You can also read the article centered around this video here.

This is a very fine line and a very heated argument with good points coming from both sides. Overfeeding children contributes to obesity, while underfeeding leads to poor growth and poor performance. Critics are approaching this argument from many angles. Because food insecurity is an increasing issue, it is not uncommon that a significant portion of students is receiving most, if not all of their meals from the school lunch program. On the other end of the spectrum other kids are filling up on high-calorie, high-fat, and low-nutrient foods and sugary beverages. An article published in the NY Times pointed out a very strong opinion. This article contained a quote from the USDA that stated that according to previous federal audits showed that the average high school lunch before the calories restrictions contained only 730 calories which happens to be under the current regulations of 750-850 calories. While students are currently complaining that they are not being given enough food, the reality of it is – most students are probably just not consuming the foods that they are offered. Psychologists have shown that it can take up to 10 times of exposing a new food to a child before they will even try it, let only accept it. These changes will take time and I think the kids will learn to adjust once both sides work together to form a compromise.

If you are interested in learning more about National School Lunch Week click here and if you would like to read about the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act click here.

What are your thoughts on the calorie restriction for school lunches?