It is a YouTube sensation. A video made by high school teens titled We Are Hungry is an exaggerated but necessary cry for a change. In the tune of hit song We Are Young the video depicts teens falling asleep during class and slumping to the floor during sports practices. As silly as the video gets at times it boils down to one thing. There needs to be a change. School lunches need to have more calories and bigger portions to support the growing bodies of the children and teens eating them.
New legislation passed in the US limits the calorie intake of school meals to 650 calories for elementary school, 700 calories for middle school and only 850 calories for high school students(Health and Family). These calorie levels are only a fraction of what active teens require for their daily intake. In a simple calorie generator found online, I plugged in my gender, height, weight, age, and exercise level to find out my recommended daily intake. My daily calorie need was 3800 calories.
This number is fairly high for the average teen, who should be getting around 2,500 calories, but many other athletes require similar levels of energy to mine. Michelle Obama’s new lunch policy requires high school lunches to have between 750 and 850 calories. Using the recommended number given to me by the calorie generator, I found that the school lunches are less than 20% of my required daily intake. This means that at lunch, one of the bigger meals of the day, I am only getting 1/5th of my required calorie intake to maintain healthy energy levels and body weight.
Her policy also requires schools to provide more fruits and vegetables. This may seem like a good thing, and it is, but in the process of adding more fruits and vegetables to the menu they removed almost all of the higher calorie sides. Now, instead of having options such as breads, french fries, or soups students are forced to have one main entree followed by 3 healthy “sides”. These sides consist of a miniature bag of baby carrots, a plastic dish that contains a couple pieces of lettuce, or an orange that could probably fit inside an easter egg. Lunches are required to have under 850 calories but many students get even less because they dont want to eat these sides and there are no other options available to them.
FeedingAmerica.org states that 26.7% of students face food uncertainty(Feeding America). This may sound like an odd statistic but food uncertainty means that they dont know where their next meal is going to come from. For about 20 million students, school breakfasts and lunches are the only meals that they get during the week. Legislation passed that limited lunch calories also affected breakfast limits. School breakfast may now only have between 450 and 600 calories. If a students only meals are school breakfast and lunch he or she is only getting a maximum of 1450 calories. This is about the same amount as the average vegetarian(1300).
As a student body, its easy to claim we’re not getting enough to eat, but what are some solutions that stay within budget and provide more food to the students? Soups need to be put back as an item on the regularly priced lunch. Soups used to be a part of a lunch but now that there is calorie limits a bowl of soup will cost you $1.25. Soup is a cheap and easy way to provide students with vegetables as well as meat and it is high calorie for the athletes and active teens who need it.
Our school also needs to replace the slushy machines with healthier and more nutritious options. Everyday I get a slushy for lunch because it comes free with a meal, but if I had a choice I get rid of these sugary slushies that provide no nutritional value and in its place I would give students options between a buttered roll or veggie chips.
This would provide healthier calories and would be cheaper than having to run slushy machines for 2 hours each day. Not to mention paying for all the flavoring to go in them. This bread would give students more carbohydrates which allow them to have energy for longer periods of time as opposed to the crash that comes after consuming sugary foods such as candy or slushies.
Many people might argue that not all people need these extra calories and that by providing students with more food it would be putting less active teens at risk for obesity. I completely understand this point of view and I am aware that obesity is becoming an epidemic in this country. In order to combat this argument however schools should lower the price of a second meal.
If I wanted to get two helpings of a certain meal that the school is providing I would need to pay for two full lunches regardless if I am buying all the sides and milk that comes with a the lunch. A second helping of a meal should be at a reduced price. This allows kids who dont need the extra calories to get a healthy amount of food and it would provide the active teens who do with a more affordable way to get more food.
School lunches were just a major topic of conversation in many politic discussions across the country, but for the wrong reasons. Schools should not be banning the amount of calories they provide but instead encouraging teens to eat the right calories and giving teens who participate in sports affordable ways to get more food.
If you feel hungry or tired in the periods after lunch this could be a problem for you too. You can help by going to a school board meeting and bringing it up, writing a letter to the superintendent, or even talking personally with the head cafeteria lady. Calorie limits should only be for those who need it, and by putting them in place it causes everyone else to suffer.
Feeding America. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. .
Health and Family. Time, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. .