There used to be a time when you would go through the lunch line and if you were really hungry you could pick up an extra sandwich or get an extra scoop of chicken a la king.
Well, those days are over. Now if you get that extra scoop of chicken a la king or extra sandwich, it would put you over the new federally mandated calorie maximums.
It’s 650 calories for kindergarten through fifth grade; 700 calories for grades 6-8; and 850 calories for grades 9-12. If you eat more, you could get fat is the message the government is sending.
Overall, watching what our students eat is a good idea. It’s smart to limit sodium content and sugar as well as increase the availability of fruits, vegetables and whole grains on the school menu. Plus, eliminating nachos as an entrée would be a good step.
After all, the United States Department of Agriculture’s 53-page Q&A about the new lunch program says one in three children is overweight or obese. That is nearly half a million kids in Wisconsin alone.
But the department goes on to explain in the Q&A that “The new meal patterns are designed to meet the needs of MOST school children.”
It also says, “The calorie minimum and maximum levels are based on data pertaining to children’s healthy weight, physical activity level, and opportunities for meals and snacks outside of the school meals programs.”
Certainly the new federal requirements do meet the needs of MOST schoolchildren as the USDA says.
But what about those students who have football or basketball practice right after school and burn close to 1,000 calories during one practice alone?
At the same time, what about the students who are on free or reduced lunch and may not have access to very much food at home?
We know those are likely not the situations for most students, but some students may need extra calories. Some exceptions should be made to give them more food.
Of course, kids can bring snacks for after school or pack their own lunch, but that may not be an option for all kids. For instance, last year more than half of all Racine Unified students received free or reduced-price lunches.
In addition, if you take a 300-pound teen and tell him he can only have 850 calories for lunch, he is going to make up those calories somewhere else and most likely it’s not going to be with anything healthy.
We’re not saying kids should get an extra cookie or ice cream, but one or two extra pieces of turkey or ham or an extra piece of bread is not going to break their zippers, especially for those student-athletes who may need more than most students.