We had another great question from a blog reader:
My kid is coming home from school hungry because he isn’t getting as much for lunch as he used to. Why were changes made to the school lunch program?
With the start of the new school year, there’s concern some kids may be feeling hunger pains due to the first changes to the National School Lunch Program in 15 years.
American Farm Bureau Farm Program Specialist Kelli Ludlum said there are new maximum requirements for the amount of protein and overall calorie content of school lunches. There have always been minimum requirements for calories, protein and other nutrients, but now there are maximums as well and it appears that those maximums, while potentially looking good on paper, really aren’t meeting the needs of particularly junior high and high school students that have a higher caloric requirement, especially for those that are active in after school sports.
The changes are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which Congress passed two years ago. Kelli says there are positive aspects of the standards, like offering more fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.
The effort was actually well-intentioned, Kelli said. There was a real concern about the growing problem of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. So in an effort to solve that problem Congress instructed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to look at childhood obesity and try to address that problem through the school lunch program. The problem is that in trying to solve childhood obesity for some you actually starve some of the more active children, particularly those at the higher age groups.
Nebraska Farm Bureau’s home office staff has heard stories from members, friends and coworkers about having to pack a lunch for their child in addition to the school lunch. These are especially important for young people that are active in after school sports that just aren’t having their caloric needs met for, not only a long afternoon of classes, but possibly a couple of hours of sports practice on top of that, Kelli said.
Kelli said she won’t be surprised if USDA takes another look at the new standards, because many parents are complaining that the school lunches are leaving their kids hungry and how well will a kid do in school if all they’re thinking about is their growling stomach?
Keep asking great questions!