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Published November 06 2012

Forum editorial: A recipe for failure in schools

It makes no sense for public schools to offer an allegedly healthy lunch menu that students won’t eat. It makes even less sense to assume younger students will be “educated” and therefore embrace a dull-as-sawdust menu when they enter middle school and high school. Not gonna happen in an era of taco Tuesdays, double cheeseburgers (you want fries with that?) and a super-size Mountain Dew.

School lunch guidelines are a result of the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. It’s an ironic title since the new menus limit calories. Students go away hungry from the lunchroom because the meal choices are stingy and bland.

If better nutrition is the goal (some question whether the new lunches can come close to achieving it), the kids are resourceful when it comes to getting what they want, which sometimes is not nutritionally sound. Be assured that if they are rejecting the newfangled lunch offerings, older kids are opting for fast-food meals off campus, and younger kids are bringing the traditional peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches from home. Oh, get this: PB & J sandwiches are verboten on the mandated school lunch list. Something about bread being a no-no.

Making school lunches healthy is a good thing. Cutting back on empty calories, fats and sugars has obvious health benefits. But when the school lunch menu limits meat (protein) to 1 ounce per day for middle schoolers and 2 ounces per day for high school students, there is little doubt the kids will go elsewhere to feed because they are hungry. After all, they are growing boys and girls, and most of them need more in their bellies than the new guidelines allow. Just ask coaches who provide snacks to their athletes because the kids come to practice hungry, not having eaten enough at lunch.

Schools cannot force-feed meals to students. It’s clear the kids don’t want the menu because it’s exceptionally unappealing. The evidence of rejection also includes reports from food service workers in local schools and all across the nation that they are throwing away more food than ever before.

Let’s review: The kids are not eating the “healthy” offerings on the new menu. Enough food is being wasted to feed a small Third World country. The goal of the new menu – better nutrition for young people – is not being achieved because the students are rejecting the stuff, and those who can are going elsewhere to eat.

As recipes for failures go, this one should be featured in the cookbook of federal mandates.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.