As the new school year begins, fresh school lunch regulations are in effect to encourage healthy eating. But not everyone's pleased. While students from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania protest their new school meals, lawmakers in D.C. are looking to put it on the books.
Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) have introduced a bill that would repeal the age-aligned calorie maximums imposed by new USDA school lunch guidelines, The Hill’s Floor Action blog reports.
The so-named No Hungry Kids Act is in direct response to an initiative put forth in January by first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to make school lunches healthier and more nutritious. New federal requirements -- representing the first major nutritional overhaul of school meals in over 15 years -- are meant to offer less sodium, more whole grains and a wider selection of fruits and vegetables to the 32 million schoolchildren who participate in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs.
In addition, the changes put a cap on the number of calories in school meals: up to 650 for children in kindergarten through fifth grade, 700 for sixth through eighth graders and 850 for high schoolers. These numbers are consistent with the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations.
But some maintain the aforementioned calorie counts are not enough to satisfy the appetites of hungry teenagers.
At Mukwonago High School in Wisconsin, for instance, football players -- who burn upwards of 3,000 calories a day -- led a boycott of the new federally mandated school lunch calorie limits, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Seventy percent of the 830 Mukwonago High students who normally buy lunch instead packed their own lunches in protest of the “one size fits all thing.” Middle schoolers in the district followed suit, with nearly half refusing to buy lunch.
The protest at Mukwonago High comes weeks after students from Plum Borough School District in Pennsylvania launched a #BrownBagginIt campaign on Twitter, leading to an enthused and widespread movement that had students foregoing school meals for their own bagged lunches. The teens there believed that their lunch quality and quantity had decreased as prices for the meals increased.
"The goal of the school lunch program was -- and is -- to ensure students receive enough nutrition to be healthy and to learn," said Rep. King, according to Food Safety News. "The misguided nanny state, as advanced by Michelle Obama's 'Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act,' was interpreted by Secretary Vilsack to be a directive that, because some kids are overweight, he would put every child on a diet. Parents know that their kids deserve all of the healthy and nutritious food they want."
Huelskamp, the bill’s co-sponsor, said the new guidelines are a “perfect example of what is wrong with government: misguided inputs, tremendous waste, and unaccomplished goals,” according to The Hill's blog.
King is currently locked in a congressional re-election battle with Vilsack’s wife, Christie Vilsack, to represent Iowa in its new fourth district.
According to Think Progress, King supported cutting $33 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. All school districts are required to automatically enroll children in households receiving SNAP benefits in free meal programs, a process known as direct certification.
Check out what the Pennsylvania teens were saying on Twitter about their #BrownBagginIt protest: