|New school lunch guidelines focus on age & overlook weight, height or physical activity.|
|Schools not following Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act lunch program guidelines risk losing federal funding.|
|Under new lunch program guidelines, every child will be fed the same regardless of need for more calories.|
The beginning of school always inspires change in our home. Our oldest child began a new chapter in her life by starting high school. We expected her schedule to be hectic with ball practices and games, church youth group activities, homework and time spent with her friends. Our younger son has ball practices and games of his own. We didn’t expect this new routine to include packing lunches each morning to send to school, but it does.
In the past, our kids were always excited after their first day of school. This year was different. The excitement for our oldest was replaced with hunger and a headache. Her day started a little after 7 a.m. when she got on the school bus. After school she had softball practice until 5:30 p.m. I knew she would be hungry. I didn’t expect a child who was sick from not eating enough at lunch. I jumped to conclusions at first and blamed her for not eating all of her hot lunch. She explained she ate all of her lunch, but it didn’t fill her up. Changes to the school lunch program eliminated peanut butter and bread for kids still hungry after eating their meal. Vegetable and fruit servings increased, but maximum limits were placed on meal calories, grain servings and lean meat servings. Food portions are smaller.
In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act to implement the first change to the school lunch and breakfast program in 15 years. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act will be phased in and schools must be compliant by the 2014-2015 school year. New dietary specifications set specific calorie limits to ensure age-appropriate meals for grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. The goal is to reduce the amount of fat and sodium in diets to help combat childhood obesity. Schools that choose not to follow these guidelines will be at risk for losing federal funding.
Students in grades K-5 are allowed 8-10 ounces of lean meat/meat alternative a week and a meal calorie range between 550-650 per lunch. For grades 6-8, the lean meat/meat alternative limit is 9–10 ounces a week with a calorie range of 600-700 per lunch. A student in grades 9-12 can only have 10-12 ounces of lean meat/meat alternative per week, and the meal calorie count must be between 750-850. For grains, the ranges are not much different.
My concern is the new guidelines focus on age and overlook weight, height or physical activity. For instance, in small schools most of the students participate in sports. However, under these new guidelines, every child will be fed the same regardless if they need more calories. This one-size-fits-all program is not meeting the needs of all of our children.
My daughter likes fruits and vegetables but they do not keep her full. No child should leave the lunch room hungry or suffer from headaches due to a lack of fuel for their active bodies. When our children are hungry, they cannot learn. When test scores fall, our teachers will be blamed. Our family’s solution is to pack a home lunch, but for some children, a school lunch may be the only hot meal they receive.
This program is hurting our physically active children. As a concerned parent, I believe these guidelines need to be reviewed and adjusted to meet the needs of all children, not just one group of children. Local schools need the ability to tailor their lunch program to fit the needs of their student body instead of being based on a national average.
I have contacted my U.S. Representative and Senators to voice my concerns. Until we find a workable solution for my athlete, I will pack her a lunch from home daily to ensure her nutritional needs are met.