Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Politics of School Lunches

Every First Lady has to have a do-good project. Michelle Obama selected school lunches as her program. The first step was passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The law will increase federal spending on school nutrition programs by $4.5 billion over the next ten years. However, there’s a big problem: the children don't like the school lunches. This Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is intended to improve the health benefits of public school kids’ lunches all over the country by limiting the levels of sodium, protein, calories and fat, as well as increasing the servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The law also offers qualified children three meals a day at their schools and even extends school meals into the summer.

This program is part of Michelle Obama's efforts to reduce childhood obesity. A recent report says that one-third of American children are overweight, and the cost of treating preventable, obesity-related illnesses is at least $150 Billion annually, and this spending could rise by another $48 billion by 2030. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is aimed at reducing both the rates and costs of obesity. Here are Mrs. Obama's words when she took on this project: "When our kids spend so much of their time each day in school, ... it's clear that we, as a nation, have a responsibility to meet as well. We can't just leave it up to the parents.”

Should the government decide what kids can or cannot eat? Some students are getting pretty loud in their objections to limiting their condiments and removing desserts and whole milk from their menus. The law limits the maximum number of calories allowed in each lunch, setting maximum numbers of calories for students by age. For high schoolers, lunches may offer between 750-850 calories. K-5 kids can have 550-650 calories. Thanks to the increased emphasis on fruits and vegetables, main portion sizes have decreased. Many students claim they are still hungry after finishing lunch. Some claim that the boys are really getting shortchanged. One Dietitian said that "850 calories will meet the needs of all girls but it is not enough for moderately and very active boys, ages 15-18." Some students in Pittsburgh have started a movement called "Brown Baggin' It" to pack lunches in protest of their cafeteria's smaller portions and missing desserts. High schoolers in Rockford, MN organized a Facebook page promoting their cause and encouraging students to boycott the new school lunches with their own lunches from home.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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