America Runs On…Green Beans?

2008: Slice of pizza. Bag of goldfish. Famous Amos cookies. Well balanced lunch, right? I know that I would have chosen this lunch over a wilted salad any day in high school.  2012: Side salad (no telling if it’s less wilted though…), chicken breast, peaches, and plain old milk (the sweetened stuff is bad for you, you know).  This meal sounds passable to me, but what happens if the chicken’s a little too dry and the milk a bit too bland? Then you’re probably going to consume about 1/3 the calories, with the other 2/3 spilling down the side of the trash can.

Michelle Obama’s “Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act” is certainly rooted in good intentions.  America’s youths are becoming more and more obese, and this act should be, in theory, an effective way to restrict children’s diets.  What this act fails to do is consider the root of the problem of childhood obesity: the pantry at home.

Before reading further, check out this funny, but thought-provoking video created by some hungry kids in Kansas. (explanation here)

Especially after seeing this video and reading numerous articles online, I have to question whether the act fully takes the “Hunger Free” portion of the title seriously.  The act put a limit on the amount of calories that a student can consume in 1 day’s lunch (850 for high schoolers).  Schools allow students to get extra vegetables at the cafeteria line, but say no to students seeking more grains or protein.

To all the athletes or generally healthy and hungry people out there – think back to your high school days.  As a student athlete all 3 seasons of school, I know that I would not have been able to perform to my full potential had this act been enacted while I was in high school.  Imagine this: it’s 2:00 and you have a 400 meter repeat workout at 3:00 (or football scrimmage, or fitness test, you get the idea). You know you need fuel and have the option of extra green beans at lunch (2012) or a bagel (2008).  I know that I would choose the starch because it provides the immediate energy necessary for the upcoming outlay of calories.

As the daughter of a dietician and an athlete, I find this act very controversial, but I cannot say with 100% certainty where I stand in the debate.  On one hand, something has to be done about childhood obesity.  But I wonder if the program would be more effective if it provided mandatory nutritional education to parents (maybe at parent-teacher night?) and coupons for healthier food options for low-income families.  In terms of students whose nutritional needs are not met by the new school lunches, should they be allowed to consume more at lunch? Should they just take extra snacks to school?  How can we keep the system from collapsing and make sure that the habits stick while the students are at home too? Don’t you think that “starving” students throughout the school day will lead to unhealthy binges once they arrive at home?

So many questions! Please feel free to weigh in or ask some of your own!

Check this out if you’re interested in learning more


5 thoughts on “America Runs On…Green Beans?

  1. If students aren’t satisfied by their meals at school, are they going home hungry and overeating? Are they satisfying their junk food cravings? I also think the food industry as a whole needs to change – changes in schools are helpful, but the problem is much bigger than that.

  2. I don’t think I would have ever thought about this issue had you not pointed it out and included a link to that video. I have always been a large supporter of the fight against childhood obesity, but I agree that there are problems with this program if students are not getting the necessary amount of calories. I know I used to go home and binge eat after practice because I was so hungry, so maybe providing substantial snacks after school is one way to help unhealthy eating habits at home.

  3. Hmm I didn’t even know this existed! That shows you how closely I follow politics…oops. I am watching the debate right now though! I agree with all of the above comments that childhood obesity is a problem and while I think that food service in school could use serious re-evaluation. I know in my High School there is the availability to purchase cookies, candy, ice cream, soda, and crappy food in general. It may be beneficial to discontinue the selling of unhealthy foods like these in cafeterias. I think this could be effective. I don’t however think a child’s consumption of healthy food should be limited. What if they are hungry and growing? They need protein and grains. This would be a small step to help obesity but I think it has the potential to be effective.

  4. Obesity is a huge problem and definitely an aspect in our society that should be dealt with. To tell you the truth, I don’t think this law is half bad. While the problem most likely is still occurring at home, at least this is one meal in the right direction. I think the government needs to keep with the health initiative set in place. A healthy America is a happy America.

  5. Quite honestly, I don’t really see much wrong with this law. I was an athlete throughout high school and although in some instances a more carb-loaded snack (like a bagel) would have been preferred over extra green beans, I can see where this law would be very beneficial. I mean in some high schools the caf isn’t really the ultimate food source anyways. I know a lot of my teammates brought appropriate pre-practice/pre-game snacks with them to school rather than getting them from the caf. Yes, that video represents the disgruntled opinions of students at one high school, but is that the case for the majority? I wonder if the extra-vegetables-instead-of-protein-or-grains dispute is even true at many high schools or if it is more of an exception to the rule? I think portion/caloric intake control at school lunches is actually a really good idea. Maybe educational methods should be introduced as well, but I think this is a great start.

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