“Occupy” The School Cafeteria
School lunches are now the hot topic as lunch trays are a bit lighter and calories are being limited. The so-called “nanny-state” has spread across America and into our schools as First Lady Michelle Obama, despite not being a nutritionist, has decided she knows what’s best for our children’s diets.
This is part of her “Let’s Move” campaign, and it resulted in the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” which was passed into law by the lame duck, Democrat-controlled Congress in December 2010. Now the frustrations that played out in the Occupy movement have moved into the hallways of our schools as our youth protest the reduced lunches that are making them go hungry. 
“Under the new regulations, cafeterias are required to serve twice as many fruits and vegetables while limiting proteins and carbohydrates. For an average high school student, that means two baked fish nuggets, a cup of vegetables, half a cup of mashed potatoes, one whole grain roll and 8 ounces of fat free milk is the fuel that served to get them through their last four hours of classes.”
In one reported school district, the cafeteria staff are instructed to count out how many tater tots each student gets so they are in compliance with these new regulations. Instead of making sure our children are fed, we are making sure we calorie-restrict them regardless of their weight, height, age and caloric needs. This is crazy!
From Riots in the Street to Riots in the Hallways
Students at Parsippany Hills High School held a strategy session in September to discuss a potential lunch strike over what they have called inadequately sized meals. These students were so outraged they planned a cafeteria boycott that will cost the school money. One noted comment echoes a perennial concern: these students want to know why they are paying the price for other people’s problems. “If somebody’s obese why should someone like me who’s not obese have to suffer, and eat a small meal when I’d rather have a bigger meal?”
As a health and wellness business owner, I certainly understand the importance of ensuring our children and students receive nutritious meals at school. According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has tripled in the last thirty years. The answer to this issue is that we must start in the home by teaching our children the importance of an active lifestyle and healthy eating. Parents and communities, not the government, should find common ground in empowering these children with the tools needed for a healthy lifestyle.
Where’s the Beef? Not on Students’ Plates!
The result of this new school lunch law is that we end up with hungry kids. The new high school lunch limit of 750 to 850 calories is simply not enough for growing kids. Like adults, kids vary in their size, activity level and metabolism rate. School athletes are finding that functioning in their athletic activities is becoming a challenge. I was an athlete in high school, and I remember walking that lunch line twice. I paid extra but my calorie needs were met. The school made their money, and I was nourished to play a 2.5-hour competitive volleyball game after school.
Let’s Look at the Collateral Damage of this Bureaucratic Decision
Students and teachers are both suffering under this new rule. Many reports claim children are complaining they are still hungry after lunch, leaving teachers with the challenge of teaching hungry students.
Growing government regulation also makes it more expensive for all parties. This costs both the school more (even for less food) and the families more – the cost of school lunches has risen by $0.20-$0.25 per plate. No one is receiving a good value in the long run. To make matters worse, new government-required paperwork consumes so much of the employees’ time that it is driving up labor costs.
Even more interesting, students have reportedly begun a black market bringing food to school and selling it to other students. Apparently even students have a better understanding of job creation and free trade than Washington bureaucrats!
Kids being food-restricted at school will lead to them finding the fastest food items after school to replenish themselves. If good nutrition choices do not start in the home, then children will follow their stomachs and find the quickest “pick me up” after school. Whether they stop for fast food or overeat on “baked” potato chips, we are setting them up for unbalanced eating habits. I can see government turning around and saying, “It’s ok, when you go to McDonalds just use thinner straws for your milkshakes.”
Beyond the classroom, the rapid expansion of government regulation is taking away freedoms from consumers like you and I. Do not forget New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has banned large-sized sugary drinks and all but eliminated the use of trans fats in restaurant food.
The Final Rule
Americans should be outraged. The school lunch mandate and the progression of many other red tape decisions by the Obama administration are only a small taste of what’s in store for America as he continues his agenda into a second term. Quite simply, it’s none of the government’s business. Parents, not politicians and bureaucrats, should decide what their children eat. Right now it’s “too much turkey” in your children’s lunch. What will it be tomorrow? Just imagine…
What we are seeing is surely not leadership, it is slow control, and even with “the best of intentions” all roads lead to… well, you know the rest of the story.
 Let’s Move Campaign http://www.letsmove.gov/first-lady-column-healthy-hunger-free-kids-act
 You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IB7NDUSBOo
 Centers for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm
 Education Action Group News http://eagnews.org/appalled-school-cafeteria-employee-seconds-banned-extra-food-thrown-away/