Is the National School Lunch Program a Success or Failure?
Is the National School Lunch Program a Success or Failure?
Recently there has been revisions to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and schools were required to overhaul their entire menus to provide the students with healthy and nutritious foods including fruits and vegetables. The new school lunch rules are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 which has been implemented this fall.
(Post Standard) The Hunger Act allows the USDA the opportunity to make reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs. With these revisions come strict guidelines from the federal government that each school district must follow in order to receive funding and reimbursement (National School Lunch Program, 2012, August p. 1). In this essay i will be comparing the positive and negative effects of these recent revisions to the NSLP. I will then discuss whether or not these changes are beneficial to the children receiving the meal and whether NSLP is leaving children hungry or helping children make healthy food choices.
The NSLP was established by President Truman in 1946 and has expanded ever since (Congressional Digest, 2010, p. 292). In its first year of the program 7.1 million children participated in the NSLP. Today, thirty-one million children each day get their lunch through NSLP. The cost of this program is approximately $6.1 billion annually and continues to rise with the cost of food (Congressional Digest, 2010, p. 293). The new NLSP standards aim to combat childhood obesity, malnutrition and educate children on how to make healthy food choices. The requirements for kindergarten to fifth grade are as follows: limited sodium and saturated fat, must be trans-fat free, ½ cup of fruit, ¾ cup serving of vegetables, 8 oz of fat free milk, 8-10 ounces of meat/meat alternates a week or 1 ounce daily, and 1 oz serving a day of grains and half of the grains offered per week must be whole grain.
The calorie range for a lunch, kindergarten through fifth grade is a minimum 550 calories and the maximum is 650 calories. Schools are also required to serve ½ c dark green, ¾ c red/ orange, 1/2c legumes and 1/2c starchy vegetables weekly. The revisions have increased the fruits by a ½ c, vegetables by ¼ c, decreased the meat from 2 oz to 1 oz, and milk must be fat free or 1% low fat ( Dietary Guidelines 2012). These revisions have been met with positive and negative responses. I decided to discuss this by interviewing Terry Warwick the Director of Food Services at my son’s school Granby Elementary.
She is responsible for planning and implementing the changes from the NSLP. She designs the menu, orders the food and continues to attend workshops to stay current with the new guidelines. The first question i asked was, what difficulties did you have implementing the changes to NSLP? She explained that it is difficult to meet the needs of all students with one standard. Many students such as athletes require more calories, so they leave the cafeteria hungry.
The school cannot discriminate one group of students over another, so they encourage the students to take everything offered not skipping fruits and vegetables. I then asked her if they are noticing a lot of food waste, students taking the extra fruits and vegetables and then throwing them out. She replied that the students are hungry at lunch, they want to eat therefore they haven’t seen very much waste. Students are given the choice of fruits and vegetables they can refuse two but are required to take three and if they want they can take all fruits and vegetables offered. Terry Warwick informed me that the cost of buying lunch had gone up twenty five cents from last year, i asked her if this is a result of the changes to the NSLP and she said yes.
The cost of fruits and vegetables has escalated so they had to increase the cost of lunch. The government subsides our school by $1.50 per meal served if they meet the NSLP requirements. She explained the new guidelines are very strict and require a specific computer program to follow all restrictions based on color, food and serving size. She has seen many positive results to these changes including students are trying more fruits and vegetables that they don’t always get at home. Students are learning to make healthy choices and it is encouraged to see them load up on fruits and vegetables (Interview Terry Warwick, 2012, November, 15). I found this interview very informative.
As a parent I was very pleased to know the amount of effort that is being made to plan and prepare the lunch that is served at my son’s school. The changes to the NSLP have had many positive effects on the students that can be seen in their daily performance at school. Children who eat healthy perform, learn, have more energy and are generally happier kids. It is reassuring as a parent to know your child is eating healthier foods at school. The main focus of the NSLP is to teach children to make healthy choices and help combat childhood obesity. Students are learning to eat more fruits and
vegetables and to try things they might not have at home.
They are more likely to be fit and active and participate in activities like school sports, develop socially and have self confidence. The revision to the NSLP have also had some negative effects on students and parents. Students who do not eat enough fruits and vegetables leave the lunchroom hungry. Parents have children coming home from school starving and this is when the complains begin. Many students who are athletic require more calories than they are given and therefore, needs are not being met by the new NSLP revisions. A recent article in the Post Standard talks about the boycott a student has organized at our local high school. This student is trying to bring attention to this growing problem of students still being hungry after lunch. He states “ 850 calories is ridiculously low,” he said. “If you get salad, it’s just lettuce and the green beans don’t taste good. So it means I come home and binge eat because I’m so hungry.” (The Post Standard, 29 Oct. 2012). This boycott has been especially difficult for students who receive free lunch.
Peer pressure has prevented some from getting sometimes the only meal they eat that day. Another big problem is the decrease in entree size, foods such as meatballs portions have been cut in half so instead of 4 meatballs they get 2. Some articles written on this have said there is a big percentage of food waste especially in high schools as much as 30%. Schools that prepare their meals from scratch have noticed that there is little waste because the food is not processed and fresh. The revisions to the NSLP have had many hurdles to overcome and it is very difficult to have one standard for everyone to follow. As a parent I have listened to both sides of this topic and will evaluate whether or not i think the NSLP is beneficial to the students. I noticed shortly after the first week of school, my son was coming home from school starving. He indicated there wasn’t enough food on the days he bought lunch. After a phone call to the school, i learned about the revisions and talked with him about taking all the food that was offered to him whether or not he liked them.
The outcome from this conversation has been great, he has started eating more fruits and vegetables that he wouldn’t even try at home. He has talked more and more about making healthy choices and is asking questions about what foods are healthy and what are not. I really think age is a big factor in implementing the NSLP, children at a young age are more likely to learn how to eat healthy than at a high school age. I think the negative effects we are seeing to these revisions are largely in part because students did not learn how to eat healthy at a young age and it is difficult to change those unhealthy eating patterns as young adults. Teenagers eat an amazing amount of food and it is very hard to have one standard for all, students do have the option to buy a second meal and parents should pack an extra sandwich for athletes so they don’t come home starving.
Childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate and something needs to be done to stop it, if children aren’t learning how to make healthy choices at home then at least they are learning that at school. I think the National School Lunch Program is beneficial in decreasing the rate of childhood obesity and assisting our children adopts healthy eating patterns that will follow them through life.
Works Cited Page
Concannon, K., (2012). National School Lunch Program. Website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/ Retrieved on November 16, 2012. Lincoln, B., (2012). Federal Child Nutrition Programs Food Assistance and Dietary Education. Congressional Digest Debates.
Retrieved from http://congressionaldigest.com/issue/ on November 17, 2012. McGregor, J., (2012). “Federal School lunches ruled that started this fall leave many Center New York students hungry.” The Post Standard 29 (10). Warrick, T., Personal phone interview on November 14, 2012. Fulton, New York. Dietary Guidelines and the School Nutrition Program from Terry Warwick 11/15/12