The new school lunch guidelines may seem like a great way to help get our nation’s children leaner and healthier, but it already has some students up in arms.
Among those in protest are students at Wallace County High in Sharon Springs, Kansas who created a parody video called “We Are Hungry” – a spin-off of the song “We Are Young.” The video conveys that the new 850 calorie lunch restriction has left them hungry. Apparently, they aren’t the only ones who think so. Since posting the video to YouTube last week it’s already received nearly 500,000 views.
The video shows students who start to feel hungry just hours after lunch and are left too famished to complete the day’s studies and sports activities. The intro even states: “Active teens require between 2,000 to 5,000 calories a day to meet energy and growth needs,” suggesting the new calorie limit falls short on providing what they actually require.
Wallace County High English teacher Linda O’Connor helped the students write the new lyrics. The teacher told TODAY that she wanted to help them; she genuinely felt bad for students who were looking at their lunch plates “incredulously” and wanting more food. “Like, ‘Is this really what we’re being served?’ It was the lack of protein and the entree that really hit hard for them,” she said.
Specifically, school lunches are now required to be capped at 850 calories a day. The new mandate, which was revised for the first time in 15 years, also requires that milk must be non-fat or low-fat, and meals must include one cup each of fruit and vegetable as well as 2 ounces of protein and 2 ounces of grain each day. If students get hungry later on in the day, schools are allowed to provide extra servings of fruit and vegetables and low-fat milk.
These new standards are a result of the latest research from the Institutes of Medicine, which determined 850 calories as a suitable amount of calories for growing kids. The USDA issued a statement regarding school lunches, saying “The amount of food on a kid’s plate is not much different than in years past – it is simply healthier.”
There’s already been a fair amount of discussion on Twitter in response to the video.
850 is a low-cal lunch? RT @thestate: #Kansas students comment on low-calorie lunches in parody video#wearehungry bit.ly/OpBsOE
— Erin Poole (@Erinish3) September 26, 2023
i will not be silent, i will not be silent anymore, i will raise my voice, i will raise my voice, we will lift you high #WeAreHungry
— Kenisha Mangum (@kay_manee) September 24, 2023
You gotta love KS kids bit.ly/OEQiLo#protestingMichellesfoodguidlines #wearehungry
— Gail(@Miz_Eisenhower) September 19, 2023
With controversy surrounding the new guidelines, it’s no surprise that Michelle Obama’s name gets brought into the conversation since she’s the leading voice of the Let’s Move! campaign. Her efforts in getting kids more healthy and active are “not a joke; it’s for their [the children’s] health,” said Mrs. Obama in a recent media event. Many back her approach, especially considering one in three teens is currently obese.
In response to “We are Hungry,” and other students and parents who may not understand the new guidelines, Mrs. Obama released a YouTube video last week to better explain the changes. “Starting this year, the talented people who cook your school will be offering you all kinds of healthy, delicious new choices; Foods that are good for you and taste good, too.” she said.
“These healthy foods are good for your body. They’ll give you energy and make you stronger. And they’re also good for your mind. Studies show that when you eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, they can actually help you pay attention in class and do a better job on your homework and tests. And that’s really what this is all about – it’s about ensuring that all of you have everything you need to learn and grow and succeed in school and in life.”
Though 850 calories may sound like an adequate amount, it may not be suitable for student athletes, especially boys active in sports. DietsIn Review.com’s registered dietitian, Mary Hartley, RD, says that to meet USDA requirements the average school meal, analyzed weekly, must:
- Contain no more than 30 percent of calories from fat;
- Contain no more than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat; and
- Provide one-third of the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for calories, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. (That’s 2,550 calories a day.)
Of the new guidelines, Mary says, “850 calories will meet the needs of all girls (even the most active need 2,400 calories) and everyone else, but it is not enough for moderately and very active boys, ages 15-18. (See this chart.) But those boys should not expect to meet their calorie requirements in three meals a day. Active boys usually eat four meals, plus snacks, and after-school athletes should carry a snack or the school should provide a snack for before and after practice.”
Furthermore, Mary added, “The biggest change in the school lunch guidelines isn’t the number of calories but rather the foods that go into those calories. The complaints are just a way to protest the change in direction towards healthier food.”
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