Though this year’s new school lunch guidelines are generally a hit with nutrition experts and school officials, Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp, a Republican who represents the state's largely rural 1st District, said that’s not what he’s hearing from parents and students.
“Parents are frustrated that the lower calorie limits are leaving their children hungry, and therefore unable to concentrate in the classroom or without the energy they need to participate in after-school sports,” Huelskamp told KHI News Service.
Weeks after the guidelines went into effect, some students in his district made a music video protesting the guidelines:
Give me some seconds I need to get
some food today My friends are at the
corner store Getting junk so they
don’t waste away.
The video — called “We Are Hungry,” spoofing a pop song by the band Fun — has been viewed nearly 800,000 times already, and last week was covered widely by the national media and was featured on Comedy Central's The Daily Show.
Much of the video shows student athletes without energy and passing out en masse.
However, federally funded school lunches are not intended to serve as a sports training table for student athletes, said Cheryl Johnson, who heads the Child Nutrition and Wellness program at the Kansas State Department of Education.
She said the guidelines were intended to make sure school lunches provide one-third of the average daily calorie needs of students, by age group.
Johnson said that additional helpings of fruits and vegetables remain available and federally subsidized for those who want them and that students who want seconds of other items can always purchase them.
Push to repeal the guidelines
The new guidelines were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, in part to help stem the rising tide of childhood obesity in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than a third of all children in the U.S. were overweight or obese in 2008.
The new guidelines include the first-ever caps on calories provided in school meals, which Huelskamp said were misguided.
“Childhood obesity is certainly a problem in America, but it is not the prerogative of the federal government to put every child on a diet,” Huelskamp said. “It is the right and responsibility of the parents to counter their children’s health issues.”
Huelskamp is co-sponsoring legislation that would repeal the new nutritional guidelines and reinstate the old ones, which had been in place for 15 years.
"The USDA's new school lunch guidelines are a perfect example of what is wrong with government: misguided inputs, tremendous waste, and unaccomplished goals. Thanks to the Nutrition Nannies at the USDA, America's children are going hungry at school," Huelskamp wrote in press release unveiling the “No Hungry Kids Act,” co-sponsored by Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King.