School Lunches Are Revolting … And So Are The Students

A month ago I wrote about the latest school-lunch nonsense and included this quote from a newspaper article:

There will be more whole grains on school lunch menus this year, along with a wider selection of fruits and vegetables and other healthy options.  The challenge is getting children to eat them.

Yup, that’s turning out to be a challenge, all right.  Here’s how kids reacted in a district in Wisconsin:

On Monday, 70% of the 830 Mukwonago High students who normally buy lunch boycotted cafeteria food to protest what they see as an unfair “one size fits all thing.” Middle schoolers in the district also boycotted their school lunches, with counts down nearly half Monday. They’re not alone in their frustration; schools across the country are reporting students who are unhappy with the lunch offerings.

On a positive note, the students are (I hope) learning a valuable lesson:  a “one size fits all thing” is what you get whenever big-government types get involved.  Mayor Bloomberg in New York isn’t telling the small fraction of the population whose blood pressure is affected by sodium to restrict salt.  Nope, he wants to mandate a low-sodium diet for everyone who buys packaged food in his kingdom … er, city.  The USDA doesn’t tell people to eat a high-carbohydrate diet unless they happen to be diabetic.  Nope, a high-carb diet is right for everyone.  One size fits all.

But of course, students aren’t all one size, as the article noted:

“A freshman girl who weighs 100 pounds can eat this lunch and feel completely full, maybe even a little bloated,” said Joey Bougneit, a Mukwonago senior.  But Blohm [mentioned earlier in the article] is a 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound linebacker.

I remember watching the guys on my high school’s football team eat lunch.  They piled food on their plates and went back for seconds or dessert.  Well, go figure.  They lifted weights or practiced in the morning, then had practice again after school.  Those practices were grueling.  They had a tough coach who led them to the state finals, even though they were the underdogs throughout the playoffs.  (They lost in the championship game, dangit.)  If they’d been limited to 850 calories for lunch, as the new federal guidelines dictate, I can imagine the headline in the school paper:

Newly Svelte Football Team Loses Five Straight

Sure, there was a lot of junk on the menu when I was in high school.  I wouldn’t recommend corn dogs and pizza to student athletes or anyone else.  But we’re not going to produce lean, healthy kids by forcing them to eat the low-fat, calorie-restricted meals the nanny-staters have decided is good for them.  They’ll just eat more later, bring their own lunches, or flat-out rebel, as they did in Wisconsin.

Another school in Connecticut has already decided roll back some of the federal guidelines, thanks to complaints by students:

The new school year has barely begun, but there’s already been one “dropout” at Staples High School. No, it’s not a student throwing in the towel just weeks into the academic cycle, but new dietary rules governing how sandwiches are made in the Staples cafeteria that — after a chorus of student objections — have been dropped.

Despite what may have been the federal Department of Agriculture’s best intentions, the guidelines to promote healthier eating implemented at the start of the year were on the menu only a few days.

Well, government officials always have the best of intentions when they institute stupid policies, don’t they?  But despite those fine intentions, here’s what the students wanted:

School officials reassessed the policy and opted to put more meat into it after listening to students’ complaints.

Yup.  The students wanted more meat on their sandwiches.  More meat and more cheese.

“They were charging the same price for a quarter of what we were getting,” said Devon Lowman, 17, a Staples senior who organized a petition among students that called for changes in the sandwich policy.

Last year, he said, for $4 students got “as much meat and as much cheese and other toppings as you wanted on sandwiches,” as well as a choice from eight kinds of bread. “What it had come to was only three choices of bread (and) two slices of meat.”

The two breads that were not verbotten were – you guessed it – healthywholegrain breads.  The purpose of limiting meat and cheese in school lunches is to limit fat.   So we’ve got calorie-limited meals based on grains, fruits and vegetables, with restrictions on meat, cheeses and other foods that provide both fat and protein.   Care to take a wild guess what the geniuses in government named this program?

The new regulations are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was recently enacted.

“Uh … excuse me, could I please have more meat on my sandwich?”

“No.  That would violate the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

“But I’m still hungry when I eat these sandwiches.  I really want more meat.”

“I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to be hungry.  Giving you more meat would violate the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

The good news is that the principal in Connecticut listened to the students’ complaints and changed school policy.  The bad news is that a lot other principals probably won’t.


31 thoughts on “School Lunches Are Revolting … And So Are The Students

  1. Sarah

    If you want a healthy kid, you’d be better off doing the exact opposite of what the government suggests.

    Kids need protein and kids need fat… unless your goal is a generation of kids who never had proper brain development.

    That’s why my girls bring their lunch from home.

  2. Bret

    “Well, government officials always have the best of intentions when they institute stupid policies, don’t they?”

    The good intentions often seem to sell the public on these idiotic plans. Many people see that an effort is labeled with a noble cause, and they jump right on board without ever scrutinizing the details. No Child Left Behind was one such example–caught on with its noble intent, but was horribly flawed in practice. In annual office-wide sexual harassment policy refreshers, a quotable tagline for personal conduct is, “Intent is irrelevant.” Sounds like a good rule of thumb when analyzing government policy too.

    Penn & Teller did a segment on a similar note in season 1 of B.S., in which a bunch of hipsters at an environmental rally went around signing petitions without reading them or even asking what they were about.

    I remember that one. They go hundreds of people to sign a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide — water.

  3. Mark

    The government, do-gooders, and crony-capitalists refuse to give up this destruction of America’s health. How did we ever sink so low.

    It was the inevitable result of letting an agency in Washington decide what will be served in all the public schools.

  4. Nathaniel Russell

    Unfortunately, I have to teach these kids when they’re coked up on slushies and chips and then I have to deal with them falling asleep in class when they start crashing the next period. I used to eat the school salads, but they started cutting all the fat out of the ranch dressings. They taste like sour milk.

    At least they started making everything whole wheat–pizza, buns, etc. (oh wait, turns out that only makes it worse!)

  5. Brigitta

    Food is such a political thing that high-schoolers could start up a nutrition club. There would be plenty to discuss, such as studies cited in the news, the quality of the govt school lunches, and ways to customize/improve individual nutrition. What would be even better is to see if the schools are stupid enough to try to shut down such a club. That would make it worse for whatever school tried to do that because it would be all over the news.

    Students speak their mind about all other political issues. It’s time for them to take a stand for what they are being fed and fight the status quo tooth and nail. It is that important.

    Let’s hope they do exactly that.

  6. cancerclasses

    The 1908 Single Grain Experiment showed that of corn, oats, wheat or a mix of all three, cows fed only wheat were the LEAST healthy. And that was with 1908 wheat!!, not the mutant crap they’re pushing on everybody these days.

    And they knew that in 1908!

    Too bad they didn’t have a grass-fed group in that experiment.

  7. Bruce

    I remember hating broccoli, cauliflower and spinach as a kid. Why? Because my mom cooked it to death. That’s what most cafeterias do. As I grew older, I didn’t mind it too much raw, in a salad, or with dressing of some sort on it. My wife does a quick spinach sautee that I like. But, in restaurants, 7 out of 10 times (made up stat) the side veg is overcooked. I will take a bite or two with lots of butter, and then pass on that.

    Read in an article that one of the school food gurus said that it would take a while to get the kids used to food like black beans and hummus. Of course it will. Unless prepared right, they taste like crud. And to me, even when prepared right, I won’t eat more then a spoonful to be polite when at a party.

    I chuckled when one of the school officials suggested they need to introduce the changes more slowly. So students won’t mind if they’re slowly reduced to hunger rations?

  8. Bullinachinashop

    Well good for them. Hopefully the school will listen but even more “hopefully”, they’ll start bringing their own food to school. I’m sure the meat in those sandwiches make hot dogs look like filet mignon.

    That’s probably the best form of protest. Don’t buy the lunches they’re serving. Money (and refusal to part with it) talks.

  9. Troy Wynn

    Quit electing these people to office. That is the only way I can see this stopping. They are killing us! Please let me kill me, as I consume this fat and protein laden omelet with lots of cheese and ham. thank you.

    At the very least, parents and students should boycott the school cafeteria and pack lunches at home.

  10. Eddie Jacobs

    I live in CT so that article really struck a nerve since I have friends with children and they often tell me about the ridiculous rules about what you can and can’t pack in their lunchbox. But the thing about that article that bothers me the most is how the principle says “petitions aren’t the most effective means of fostering change”. Kind of says to me that he is a little upset that he didn’t get the opportunity to discuss the situation and change the students opinion before he stirred the pot. So happy to know that American values are being taught in schools. :-/

    Let’s at least give him credit for making the change.

  11. Rocky Angelucci

    Government wisdom at its finest.

    I can envision a future when my grandchild asks, “Grandpa, were you there when the Meat Riots of 2012 occurred?”

    “I was on the front line, throwing whole-grain rolls at the USDA inspectors.”

  12. Dave

    But wait, I thought all that fiber from the hearthealthywholegrains was supposed to be super filling because we digest it so slowly. Do you mean to tell me that these kids aren’t getting full with all that fiber? How dare they violate my theories on nutrition! If only they had the will power…

    I need to be careful here, they just moved my group into a different building, and the desk I’m now sitting at feels kinda week. I better add some extra support for the massive head banging this desk is soon to receive.

    You can always lie down and bang your head on the floor.

  13. Liz

    I don’t want children, but sometimes I think about the kind of parent I would be if I had them. I would want to gather a dozen parents and agree to pool resources and have our kids home-schooled in a small setting. The day would be shorter and more productive: they would learn the BS the state wants them to know, plus more useful knowledge. They would eat essential foods for brain-growth, and they would have an hour of heart-pumping play. I would also want them involved in extra-curricular activities, be it sports, music, art–whatever they wanted. I think it’s important kids learn to socialize both inside and outside of academia.

    Some people I know are home-schooling their kids, and that pretty much describes what they do.

  14. Ray Kelley

    The bit with the football player had me chuckling and nodding because it reminds me of a conversation I was having with a fellow paleo success story just the other day. “I eat more now than I did when I was fat,” he told me. I agreed that this was probably true for me as well. I said that the added muscle mass we’ve both gained doesn’t just sit there like the fat we swapped it for, it’s living tissue (as opposed to simply being stored energy) and you have to feed it. A lot.

    I don’t know if I eat more or eat less, but that’s the point … I just eat until I’m satisfied now and never even consider how many calories I’m consuming.

  15. Dave, RN

    I remember our “one size fits all” lunches in grade school through high school. Choice? HA! You got the sectioned square plate and whatever the dreaded “lunchlady” slopped on it that day. Thing is, it was actually pretty good. All though school we had campuses that had real kitchens. The lunch-ladies got there early in the morning and started cooking everything from actual ingredients! Giant ovens, stoves and big mixers… Even the desserts where made right there. I remember that by lunch I was starving because it smelled so good every day.

  16. Scott

    Huh wonder why, it was a youtube video called we are hungry, I read about it in an article and searched it on youtube typing in We are hungry school lunch. I posted it on the fathead fb group as well.

  17. Chad

    Since I was losing too much weight with low carb/ no carb I have set myself from 0-50 carbs to 50-100 carbs. I find that when I eat carbs I continue to be hungry. Yesterday I had a sensible plate of spaghetti for lunch and was starving all afternoon. Compare that to my normal few chunks of meat and cheese, I am never hungry when I eat that.

    They are just going to make a bunch of fatter kids and blame something else. Maybe global warming.

    Whole wheat bread, fruit, vegetables, limits on protein and fat. Yup, they’ll be hungry.

  18. Brenda

    I remember well our school cafeteria, where we all flocked at lunch time to wolf down fries and gravy and deep fried pizza pops. this was 25 years ago, and we were all skinny. I’m not condoning going back to this kind of menu at all, but how would the government explain this? How come my high fat eating, low carb eating kid is skinny? Is he disobeying the laws of physics? Maybe something else is going on – and policing kid’s eating habits won’t change anything. Even if they could get the kids to eat this way, not one thing will change until the whole system’s fixed, and at this point I can’t see that ever happening. These days suck to be a parent.

    I’m not condoning those foods either, although our high school cafeteria served similar garbage. However, that was before the low-fat diet was all the rage, and most of us ate enough fat at home to escape being famished by lunch.

  19. lisa

    I keep seeing that scene from Oliver Twist in my head…”please, sir, I’d like MORE!” (With the little empty bowl of mush!)

    Great image.

  20. Lisa

    My friend is a cafeteria worker in a school…this was what she posted on Facebook today:

    Take it from someone on the front lines, folks. If your kid is buying lunch at school, they’re not getting enough food to eat. These new nutritional standards are for the birds.


  21. Lisa Craig

    I teach in Northern California. I first read about the new legislation on your blog, and then I went to work and witnessed the fiasco it has wrought first hand. At our school, we pick up our students in the cafeteria after they are finished eating. I noticed, that first week of school, that every day a different third grader was holding a stack of round, white paper cups, and, on their trays, was an overflowing pile of dried raisins, dates, and cranberries. I finally asked the chosen student why they had everyone else’s (mandatory) fruit serving.

    “Nobody likes it, but they make us take it anyway.”

    “Why do you have all the cups stacked up?”

    “I am collecting them to take home and make cupcakes!”

    That pretty much says it.

  22. Devin

    My little sister gets free lunch at school, so I’ve been unsuccessful in convincing her to bring her lunch. She did decide she hates the whole grain wraps enough, though, that she started a trend of ordering the sandwiches without the bread. Unfortunately, the “meat” she chooses are the breaded buffalo chicken strips…

  23. lisa

    The other scary part is, here in NY the schools have gone to ‘common core curriculum’, which is MUCH more challenging and fast paced than the old one. It basically tells the kids they HAVE to be on a certain level academically, whether they are able or not.
    I can’t imagine how disastrous this food thing, coupled with common core, will be this year.

    Are they going to hold back the kids who don’t make the grades?

  24. Ulfric

    I’m in England, but as time moves on it seems more likely that my boy (who is three right now) will have packed lunches for the rest of his school life … and he’s not even on my low-carb-high-fat-ish diet! The stuff they give to the children at lunchtime is very low quality food, very low.

    That’s probably best anyway.

  25. Walter B

    What hold kids back until they can actually do the work? It would damage their poor little egos and cramp their social development.

    As if not understanding anything going on in class won’t and make a mess for the other students.

    “Resolved the United States is dissolved and all power is returned to the States or to the People.”

    It might be desirable to form a new union thereafter, however.

  26. Elizabeth

    30 years ago I attended a small parochial school in south Louisiana, and out of that I brought my single good experience with “school lunches”. There were only a few hundred students, but lunch had to be taken in rounds because the lunch room was small…and you could see the food being prepared. In order to pay for tuition, many mothers came daily to make lunch…wonderful home cooked meals. Though many of the meals wouldn’t qualify as Paleo i.e. red beans and rice with *gasp* andouille sausage, we had food that didn’t worry about fat, and we had it until we were full. There was meat, and plenty of it, in every meal. Nothing meets the spot like fried pork chops with cheese melted on top, a bit of something green on the side and whole milk. As a nod to our culture…there was hot sauce on every table, lol. Were there over wieght kids? Sure. Were thirty percent of us over wieght, not on your life.

    Exactly what the geniuses at the USDA don’t grasp: if you want kids to eat less, give them fat and protein.

  27. Lucky Joestar

    I’m an American living in Japan (in Fukushima state, where the people have a healthy glow! ^_^) and working as an English teacher in five different elementary schools. Here in Japan, we of course don’t have the Hungry Health-Free Kids Act, so the school lunches, which we faculty also eat, are pretty good. Ever since I started eating low carb, I’ve been requesting that bread and (yes, even) rice be removed from my meal, and they oblige.

    One thing that disturbed me about today’s lunch was this monstrous chunk of bread they were giving each kid. It was one huge slice about four or five times the size of a typical Wonder™ bread slice, 280 grams being my best guess. After work, I dropped into a 7-11, checked the carb content on a comparable loaf of bread and did the math. I think I just spared myself around 45 carbs by declining today’s bread, and that’s almost half a day’s worth for a low-carber.

    Not to mention avoiding wheat, no matter what the carb count.


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