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Some students develop an appetite for healthier school meals

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act required schools to cut calories from meals while adding more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. (File photo by Grant Gerlock, NET News/Harvest Public Media)

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act required schools to cut calories from meals while adding more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. (File photo by Grant Gerlock, NET News/Harvest Public Media)

by Bryan Thompson
School lunch has long been a target of jokes. Those jokes turned to complaints from students and parents alike in 2012 when new nutrition standards mandated by Congress, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, took effect.
Since it was established 70 years ago, the national school lunch program has required the federally assisted meals to be nutritionally balanced. The revisions that went into effect in 2012 were the first major changes in 15 years. Based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, they were intended to help stem the growing problem of childhood obesity.
The new rules, championed by Michelle Obama and other nutrition advocates, mandated a greater emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains — and less salt, saturated fat and trans fats. They also emphasized portion sizes and calorie counts designed to maintain a healthy weight.
In response, students at Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs, Kansas, produced a music video parody that quickly went viral. The video portrayed student athletes collapsing from hunger.
Elaine Fischer heads the school nutrition program in the small northwest Kansas town. She sympathizes with the students’ complaints, but only to a point. Fischer plans meals carefully to give teens the calories they need to pay attention in the classroom and push themselves in sports — even after some start the day with chores on the farm.
“We serve them enough here that, if they take everything off of our main line, and then they have access to the fresh vegetables and the fruit and stuff off the garden bar, they shouldn’t be hungry,” she says.
The students must have come to the same conclusion, Fischer says, because the controversy has died.
An influential group of conservative lawmakers in the U.S. House say they want the Donald Trump administration to lead a repeal of many of the nutrition rules, but Trump’s post-inauguration plans remain to be seen.
Three hours to the south, at Liberal (Kansas) High School, students haven’t produced any protest videos. But they’re also not ready to give their cafeteria a five-star rating.
During a recent lunch period, the hot lunch included five chicken nuggets, a serving of potatoes and gravy, a whole wheat roll and milk. But the cafeteria also offered a salad bar stocked with a colorful variety of fresh vegetables and a fruit salad. (-NetNews.com)


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