Major Change in School Lunches Announced, But Will Your Kids Eat It?

school lunchDoes school lunch leave your kid with a grumbling tummy at the end of the day? Well good news: The USDA is allowing schools to serve more meat and grains in school lunches. These were limited before in an effort to help prevent (or at least not contribute to) child obesity. But schools and nutritionists complained that the lunches were leaving some kids hungry. Now schools have more flexibility in how they feed children, thanks to a bill introduced by North Dakota Republican Senator John Hoeven and Arkansas Democratic Senator Mark Pryor. 

Hoeven made the announcement:

Today, the USDA made the permanent changes we have been seeking to the School Lunch Program. A one-size-fits-all approach to school lunch left students hungry and school districts frustrated with the additional expense, paperwork and nutritional research necessary to meet federal requirements. These are exactly the changes included in our Sensible School Lunch Act.

So great -- this sounds helpful, I guess. (The rules were temporarily relaxed, but this new law makes it permanent.) I'm all for more flexibility and not leaving kids hungry. I think more grains will help -- beans and some vegetables have been classified as grains in the past, which made it harder for schools to serve perfectly healthy and filling lunches that made sense to normal people but didn't add up in the twisted mathematics of school food. But more meat? Really? I thought there was already plenty allowed. 

It's a good start, but if kids are really feeling hungry in the afternoon, I can think of a few changes that might be even more effective. The thing is, a lot of the food served in school gets thrown out by kids who don't eat it. Maybe it's less a matter of serving more food and more a matter of serving better food. 

1. Serve food kids want to eat. Oh, the impossible dream! Where do we get this magical food that's good for you AND appealing to children? Some schools are working to get kids' input when they create meals -- it's worth the effort.

2. Give kids whole milk instead of low-fat milk. Jeebus, enough with the low-fat madness already. Lipids will help kids feel more full throughout the afternoon.

More from The Stir: 6 Reasons Why Skim Milk Is a Total Scam 

3. Have recess before lunch. Kids will be more focused on eating because they won't be so restless. And they'll be hungrier. In one study, school lunch waste was reduced from 40 percent to 27 percent when kids had recess before lunch. Unfortunately, too many schools have phased out recess altogether.

4. Invest in nutrient-dense food, not cheap calories. Hey, I know -- pie in the sky. But as long as we're talking about what would work, this should go on the list. 

5. Cut the sugar way, way back. So fine, sugar doesn't cause hyperactivity for most kids. But it can deliver one whopper of a crash in the afternoon. Not helpful.

Do you think kids aren't getting enough to eat at lunch?


Image via USDA/Flickr

kids nutrition, school lunch


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Mark Cox

kids dont want the good stuff..they want the garbage and every parent will tell you that what kids wont eat..they wont eat...newsflash to michelle sure

nonmember avatar dreabug23

The fact that North Dakota and Arkansas' major industries are crop production and livestock is why these two dipsh*ts passed this bill. It wasn't to help our children.

They have to pay back all the favors that big agriculture corporations paid them for.

Government does nothing to help the people. There is ALWAYS another reason behind it.

redK8... redK8blueSt8

I think they should cut lunch all together and have parents responsible for packing kids' lunches. The money spent on food can go instead to updating the textbooks and improving the education system in general.

I know this would require some increased food assistance to people who can't afford much, but that would also be overhauled to more resemble the WIC program where only specific certain foods are allowed to be purchased with the foodstamps (or whatever PC term used these days).

nonmember avatar Melissa

@Mark Cox...false? My kid won't TOUCH fattening food, and prefers the good stuff...and he will eat what is put in front of him...I'm a parent...I disagree with your broad

romab... romab1126

School food tastes like crap.

lulou lulou

Back in my day  they always ruined the brownie by packing cole slaw next to it.  What kid wants coleslaw anyway.

Anyway, I really like #3, as I know my kids race out of lunch to get out to recess, even though they could spend more time eating, so when they come home hungry, its not because of the food, but to be first in line for kickball.


LeeshaE LeeshaE

@Melissa I second that. If I child makes poor food choices I think that has more to do with how they were raised then what the school serves. My son loves healthy food one of his favorite snacks is veggies with my homemade organic ranch dip. He even hesitates when sharing snacks with friends because he worries they are not healthy or organic and he is nine.

mamat... mamatreat

If you think the two pepperoni's they get on a slice of preservative, GMO, soy filler packed pizza is enough meat you are crazy. Kids are still hungry after lunch because of what is in the food they are given. A lot of schools don't have the funds to buy 300 lbs of real ground burger so it comes in a bag they heat up, much like Taco Bell's meat that was found to only contain 36% real meat. This goes the same for the chicken nuggets, burger patties, chicken patty sandwiches, and just about any meat that schools serve. When you eat "fillers" yeah they do their job and fill you up, but an hour later you are hungry again. And really? Make the parents responsible? Do you know how many children depend on the school lunches because their parents can't/don't feed them? What should we do, make a task force to ensure that all state and federal money for these programs are actually going to the kids? And to call out the two people that think this will help because they are agricultural states? Do you even research the "facts" you are throwing out? Those two states are not even in the top 10 producers! Instead of allowing them to just give the kids more, why not try to give them BETTER???

the4m... the4mutts

My kids choose healthy food. When they were in public school (up until this week as a matter of fact) the school got grants to increase portion sizes of healthy foods for breakfast and lunch. Their trays were so FULL!! But mine always ate good because they love fruit, veggies, beans, oatmeal, etc. Sure, they like sugary crap too. But I have taught my kids to eat good food first, and save the junk for after.

They've also been taught to be aware of their bodies. After a few times of them coming home tired, cranky, and hungry, and me asking what they ate off their trays, they learned which foods make them feel good.

Sure, they're kids, and they choose cobbler over salad some days. But the healthy options are on their tray, and I couldnt have been more grateful for that fact

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

They don't need more meat, they need less. Lunch is almost always some processed meat crap with a little bit of fruit on the side.

If you give kids good food they will eat it. Too many people assume kids want junk but most really don't. I do healthy options for parties and they disappear. One birthday party I made a spinach dip, stuck a few dinosaurs and a palm tree in it, and called it a swamp. The kids sucked it down.

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