Students at Mukwonago High School in Wisconsin began their third week of school staging a boycott of the cafeteria lunches, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday, September 17. The boycott, lead by members of the school’s football team, was a protest of the smaller portions being served in the school cafeteria, a move required by new federal school lunch program nutrition guidelines.
The Journal Sentinel reports the primary complaint is the 850 calorie cap set for high school students. With a rigorous training and practice schedule, members of the football team burn more than 3,000 calories a day. The new school lunches may be adequate for less active students, but the athletes are hungry.
The problem of childhood obesity, and its related health costs, has been brought to the forefront of public policy conversation as an issue embraced by First Lady Michelle Obama. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the number of obese children, aged 2 – 19, has nearly tripled since 1980. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which took effect this year, is aimed at combating this problem.
The new school meal nutrition standards will be phased in over the next three years; school lunches will be the first meal addressed with changes to the breakfast programs planned for the future. Standards for the Federal school meals programs have not been updated in 15 years. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service announced last month the new standards would:
- offer students both fruits and vegetables every day.
- increase offerings of whole grain-rich foods and low-fat milk or fat-free milk varieties.
- limit calories based on the age of children being served.
- reduce the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.
For high school students, the new standards require school lunches fall between 750 and 850 calories; calorie levels for elementary lunches are between 550 and 650. Students who find these requirements fall short of meeting their personal needs may need to purchase a second lunch, or purchase additional food to supplement the school lunch. Students always have the option of bringing food from home.
The USDA offers these suggestions for parents who wish to get involved with their school’s lunch program:
- See the improvements to school lunches firsthand; have lunch with your child.
- Review the school menu or ask your child what is being served.
- Contact your district to find out how you can support them as they undergo their school lunch makeover.
- Engage other parents to support the school nutrition program.
- Offer to organize a taste test for new recipes and foods.
- Join your school’s wellness policy or health committee (or start one).
- Feed your child more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at home so they are familiar with them at school.