Reprint of an article I wrote for Smart Girl Nation, third quarter 2012. http://issuu.com/smartgirlpolitics/docs/qtr3?mode=window&pageNumber=1
The United States has an obesity problem.
Let’s ignore the fact that this problem for women has been linked to food stamp usage and that the longer they remain on food stamps, the more weight they gain; weight which is, to a large degree, lost after ceasing participation in the program.
Let’s forget that almost 45 percent of overweight or obese children, 10-17, are poor and that adolescents in low-income areas are nine times more likely to be overweight than those in well-off neighborhoods.
Let’s not pay attention to the fact that in many localities schools provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for students. These programs are generally in low-income areas where, presumably, many of the parents are already receiving food stamps.
Now, while expanding school food programs and encouraging food stamp participation through slick new advertisements and a further loosening of requirements, our federal government is more concerned than ever about rising obesity rates.
Enter the school cafeteria and Michelle Obama’s plan to slim down America’s children. Changes to the school lunch program were rolled out this year, changes that include more whole grains and a wider choice of fruits and vegetables. The new lunches also have calorie caps of 650 calories for elementary, 700 for middle school and 850 for high school.
Keep in mind that growing teenagers need more calories than adults, and active teens may need substantially more, anywhere from 1,800 – 3,200 calories per day. Since the implementation of the new lunch program, many students are complaining of being hungry by early afternoon and those who can are simply choosing to bring lunch from home in order to have enough to eat.
While students are complaining about not having enough to eat, twice as much food is being thrown away from school lunches this year, according to ABC news. Maybe this is because, as one food service worker put it, “It’s completely flip-flopped in terms of portion size. New federal guidelines require vegetables to comprise the largest portion of a student’s lunch, while the entrée is now being treated as a side dish.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who worked with Michelle Obama on the new lunch initiative, claims that the answer for these hungry students is to eat a snack; in other words, replace the food they just took out of the school lunches.
The administration is apparently working on creating a new snack program for kids not getting enough to eat at lunch, thanks to the last program they just created.
Meanwhile, children in private schools, like Michelle Obama’s own daughters, are not subject to the same rules public school children are. As one who has had children in both public and private schools, I’ve clearly seen the responsiveness of private schools specifically relating to the lunch issue. If the food isn’t what the kids want, the parents stop buying and the program becomes too expensive to run; consequently, school administrators do all they can to provide healthy, attractive and interesting food options that kids will actually want to eat.
Unfortunately, there are no such incentives, or common sense, in the public system. While a new snack program is being implemented to fill the tummies of hungry students who are eating their federally-limited two ounces of protein while probably throwing away most of their vegetables, students are prohibited from receiving additional helpings even if there is food left over.
The kids are throwing away their vegetables, we’re throwing away the leftover meat and our federal government is implementing a new supplementary snack because everyone’s starving; all while our country is going broke. Huh?