Since school began this year, I have read more than a few complaints about the lunches. This week, a woman I will call Jane said that the new school lunches are leaving her daughter hungry. I don’t know if the portion sizes have been reduced or if the school is serving foods her daughter just doesn’t like. Whatever the reason, Jane’s daughter was not hungry after eating her school lunch last year, and now she is. Jane says she has to pack a second lunch to send along and supplement the school lunch so her daughter doesn’t come home starving.
Jane’s daughter is one of many children in our area who receive free lunches at school. Of course, those lunches are not really free. Tax dollars collected from the public are used to pay for nutritious lunches that kids on a limited income cannot afford. But it’s a good thing to do for the kids, so few people complain about helping to pay for this massive social program.
Changes to the lunch program
More than 31 million children are eligible for free or reduced lunches in the United States under the National School Lunch Program. According to the USDA, the Healthy, Hunger‐Free Kids Act of 2010 changed the program’s meal pattern and nutrition standards beginning this school year. Those changes include mandatory increases in the amount of fruits and vegetables served at participating schools, and also an increase in whole grains. More changes will take effect in the coming years.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was supposed to improve the quality of lunches, assuring that kids had good, nutritious food to help them learn and grow. But if children like Jane’s daughter are still leaving the table hungry, there may be a much bigger problem than just making sure there is enough green on the plate.
Your yummy is my yuck
Unfortunately, many people just don’t like certain foods. According to the Children’s Hospital of Chicago, up to 35 percent of kids are affected by a feeding aversion disorder, in which they are unable to tolerate various foods. I would personally rather go on a month long fast rather than eat pickles, and I’m an adult. For a child who has an aversion to certain foods, you might as well pile mud on their plate and toss it directly in the trash. Of course those kids are going to be hungry if the lunches don’t include options they will actually eat.
I’ll tell you, I don’t like paying for food my kids don’t eat. By the same token, it is a waste for tax dollars to pay for free lunches if kids end up throwing them away. What’s tasty to the adults in charge of designing the school menu may not even seem edible to the kids who are expected to eat it. If this is the case, and kids like Jane’s daughter are going hungry consistently, we need to find ways to make sure the healthy food is still food kids will willingly eat. Otherwise, they will end up living on snacks and probably less healthy than they were before the new legislation.
More by Tavia:
Homeschooling Saved Our Lunch
Why Your Child Needs an After School Snack
Back to School: Variations on the Peanut Butter Sandwich