Kids throughout the nation are up in arms about the new school lunch standards that limit lunches to just 850 calories. I understand why they’re upset too. Many of them are complaining about being hungry by the end of the day. Athletes talk about being unable to properly function on what fuel they’ve been given. The kicker to this whole thing is that it won’t do what it’s meant to do.
First, kids are complaining of being hungry. That’s because a calorie cap means that plans will focus on that, and won’t necessarily load kids up on tons of nutritious food that is low in calories. This would let kids eat a lot of food, but still remain under that cap. Cafeteria workers have to operate on a budget that may or may not make these standards particularly feasible.
Because these kids are hungry by the time they get out of school, they look for snacks. Despite the piles of money Uncle Sam has thrown at the effort to educate kids about making “healthy” choices, kids are still kids. Most will seek out potato chips, ice cream, cookies, and all kinds of other stuff that they don’t really need. These high calorie foods counter the supposedly healthy school meals in the first place.
All of this stems from a belief that our kids are fat. However, according to the CDC, 18.1 percent of adolescents age 12 to 19 are obese. From the ages of six to 11, 19.6 are categorized as obese. That percentage drops to 10.4 percent from ages two to five. While it’s impossible to argue that these numbers are fine as they are, it is clear that this is a minority of children. However, the new lunch standards have branded all kids as obese and restricted their calories, regardless of their dietary needs.
The truth of the matter is that while some kids actually do need a healthier diet, there is rarely a “one size fits all” approach that actually works. Instead, as noted previously, these measures may actually backfire and lead to children gaining more weight.
Perhaps it’s time that the federal government step back and let communities create standards that best meet their needs. For example, a community with 75 percent obesity in teens probably should adjust their school lunches, while a rural farm community that has just five percent obesity probably doesn’t need to worry about it.
Will that happen? Who knows. Somehow though, I just don’t see Uncle Sam opting to leave things well enough alone.