Post 3: School Lunch Reform- Pros and Cons

There has been a lot of debate over the pros and cons of the school lunch reform implemented in 2012. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 directed The USDA to update the National School Lunch Program requirements and nutrition standards in order to improve the nutrition content of school lunches and help fight the rising childhood obesity epidemic (1). The changes include setting specific calorie limits and involve gradual reduction in sodium content of meals (which must meet target level by SY 2014). It also increases the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the menu (1). This all sounds good and dandy but there has been significant outcry from some of our nation’s youth through social media outlets. Kids, especially high school athletes, are claiming to be hungry before the end of the school day. The calorie restrictions require schools to serve a minimum of 700 and maximum of 850 calories to high school students, which typically include a cup of fruit, a cup of vegetables, two ounces of a grain, two ounces of meat, and a cup of milk (2). This is appropriate serving sizes for many high school students; however, for some highly active students, this may not be enough. The problem arises when hungry high school students run to a gas station to get snacks to tide them over through their sports practice, which for many students starts right after school. The high school students I know would probably choose a candy bar or bag of chips for a quick fix before practice, which mostly defeats the purpose of serving healthier foods. There are so many good things about this program, such as increasing the amount of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and lowering the amount of processed foods and sodium in the meals offered. These are obviously very good changes. However, I am just not sure that a broad calorie restriction works for everyone. In my opinion, broad policy isn’t the most effective. I do believe kids should be offered appropriate serving sizes, but maybe if some students wanted a second protein serving after they had finished their meal that could be available. Talking to my younger cousins over the holidays made the issue very apparent. In discussing the new policy with my family over winter break, my 10 year old cousin Erin shared that most days before she has sat down to start eating, at least two people have asked her if they can have her meat. Some of the problem is some kids being picky eaters and there really isn’t a way to make every kid happy about the meal option every day. This policy has a lot of really great benefits; however, I believe that some necessary tweaking should be incorporated in order to meet the variety of nutritional needs of students.






6 responses

  1. Interesting post Lacy! I agree that the new school lunch reform has definitely seen great strides with implementing the right foods to offer for students in schools, but perhaps have went a little too far with calorie restriction. Daily calorie consumption should be based on an individual needs as we are not a ‘one size fits all’ society and this holds especially true for student athletes. I believe as long as the students are being offered healthy choices, there shouldn’t be specific calorie limits being enforced on their lunches. As you were saying, this only prompts teens to make outside unhealthy choices to tide them over and could also possibly be leading to binge eating after practice. Perhaps the schools could offer healthy snack options like fruit, granola bars, etc. left open to purchase in the cafeteria as well to detract students from going off-campus and buying poor food choices for energy.

  2. Important issue, smart commentary. While I haven’t followed the conversation closely, it sounds like adjustments are bound to be made. If funding is an issue, booster clubs may play a role in supplementing the nutritional demands of active teens.

  3. It looks like the policy makers didn’t think about the wide range of kids affected by this policy. 700-850 calories might be enough for elementary school children, but by high school they clearly need more food. I don’t know how anyone could be satisfied with these portions, especially growing teenage athletes!

  4. I love your synopsis of school lunch reform. It is definitely a contentious issue and one that I have been thinking about a lot. In my opinion, the USDA School Lunch Program needs to follow the USDA Dietary Guidelines, but allow for moderation and flexibility at the same time. How to accomplish that is that challenge… CB

  5. Pingback: Pros and Cons of packing your own school lunches | blessedx5ks

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