They are Hungry and They’re Feeding Us a Load of Crap

I can see why “We Are Hungry,” the video of students protesting new school lunch requirements went viral a couple of weeks ago.  It’s funny, it’s creative and it’s cute.  But some on the right have tried to use it to gain momentum for their anti-“nanny state” agenda.

While the video is cute, it’s not the voice of a political movement.  It’s the voice of some teenagers (with good video equipment) whining for more junk food.  The end.

I don’t really have a problem with that.  I hope my kids express their opinions in positive ways like this.  This farcical look at school lunch was a fun diversion for these kids–no harm done.  I just don’t give credence to their “lunch nanny” argument.  And I’m surprised any adults do (including the teachers who wrote the lyrics and helped with the video).

I guess I’m surprised by the uproar.  The new regulations have been in effect for only a few weeks.  Let’s give it a little time, shall we?

Even so, the changes are so minor, most people would be hard pressed to spot the difference.

The lack of protein these kids are singing about may be an issue, but it’s not necessarily the result of the 2010 law, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.  For high school students, the minimum protein requirement remains the same.

They also complain about the lack of carbs.  There’s not much difference in requirements there, either.  Right now, half of all grains served must be whole grains and this percentage will gradually increase.  And what about portions?  Well, the requirement for grains has changed (for high school students) from 8 one oz servings a week to (get this) at least 10 servings a week!  If my math is correct, that means they’re getting more carbohydrates this year than last.

Kids can eat as much fruit and as many vegetables as they want.  They’re not going to starve.  In fact, the USDA has provisions for athletes and students participating in after school programs.  Schools also have some flexibility in how much they serve and can up the servings if they determine the kids aren’t getting enough to eat.  It will take individual schools time to figure out what works best for them.

And what about all the waste we’re hearing about?  If they’re so hungry, maybe they shouldn’t throw away their lunch.

In short, none of these issues should concern adults, parents or policy makers.

What should concern us is making sure school cafeteria staff know how to prepare fresh fruit and vegetables in a appealing way.  Most kids find a colorful plate of fresh, well prepared food appealing and the kids who don’t need to learn.  But to make the transition from processed, pre-prepared food to fresh, home made and local food, cafeteria employees need education and training.  You can’t just hand them more work to do and expect everything to be fine.  They need support and they need to know that eventually it won’t be any more work than it was before.

We should also be concerned that there is still a great deal of junk food lurking in our cafeterias.  Junk food should not be an option.  In fact, students should have very few options.  Forget the choice between the healthy meal or the inhumanely raised, pesticide ridden, hormone laden hamburger.  Let’s just offer the healthy meal and call it a day.  If we keep pandering to the lowest common denominator, we will raise a generation of unhealthy adults.

We could also worry that the cacophony and institutional atmosphere of our school cafeterias is not conducive to a relaxed, enjoyable meal.  And we might want to worry that kids get less than 15 minutes to eat lunch.

And we should absolutely be worried about the very real issue of childhood hunger in this country.  There are young people all over the country raising awareness, volunteering, organizing and donating to end childhood hungry.  If they had a catchy video, we’d hear more about them.  But it’s up to teachers to find these kids, too.  We need to recognize them and get our own kids involved in ending hunger.

But to spend a second worrying that kids might not prefer vegetables to Cheetos or that they might get a little hungry before snack time is distracting us from the need for more change.

The small victory for children’s health has resulted in some backlash.  And we’ve given the backlash far more attention than it deserves.  As I recall, the tobacco industry and those who benefitted from it didn’t go down without a fight.  Neither will the processed food industry.

School Lunch Rules Caught Up In Politics  by Marion Nestle

Dear Lunch Ladies, Thank You.  Sincerely, the Parents Marlene Schwarz Ph.D.

Starved by the Bell Jon Stewart The Daily Show video clip

Starved by the Bell 2 Jon Stewart The Daily Show video clip

School Lunch Requirements Create Waste, Hungry Kids from KBIA National Public Radio

Schools Fight Hunger 

Comparison of previous and current NSLP lunch requirements:


2 Comments on “They are Hungry and They’re Feeding Us a Load of Crap”

  1. Pat says:

    I enjoy your blog…but question your poke at the right…I’d rather see the left increase the school budgets for learning rather than having Michele O. tell us how to feed our children.

    • The federal government’s USDA food program has always had strict guidelines about how much of each food group children could eat. This part of it is not new. The only thing that has changed is that the food is of much higher quality. I would not want my child eating pizza warmed up in a plastic bag with a side of fries on a weekly basis. I agree, this has more to do with Obama and partisan politics than nutrition and children. Federal funding of schools only accounts for a small percentage (less the 10%) of school budgets, and comes from a completely different pocket than the food program. Children who are hungry or amped up on sugary foods have a hard time focusing in class. I think it is high time we had better foods in our schools.

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