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.

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

  1. 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…

    Reply
  2. 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.

    Reply
  3. 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.

    Indeed.

    Reply
  4. 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.

    Reply
  5. 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…

    Reply
  6. 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?

    Reply
  7. 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?

    Reply
  8. 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.

    Reply
  9. 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.

    Reply
  10. 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.

    Reply
  11. 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.

    Reply
  12. 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.

    Reply
  13. 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.

    Reply
  14. 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.

    Reply
  15. 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.

    Reply
  16. 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.

    Reply
  17. 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.

    Reply
  18. 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.

    Reply

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