A story out of South Carolina illustrates just how unhappy public school students are with Michelle Obama’s restrictive lunch program rules. Instead of grabbing some pizza and fries on their way through the lunch line, SCnow.com reports that students are expected to make do with reduced calories, reduced choices, and every kid’s favorite food: salad.
“All I heard about was how hungry everyone was,” said sophomore student Madeline Taylor. “I then became very concerned about what would happen if this continued every day throughout the school year.”
Taylor was motivated to do something to make sure their young voices were heard. While students around the country have taken to Instagram and Twitter to complain about their federally-sponsored new lunches, Taylor and the students of West Florence High School started a petition on Change.org. Entitled “Bring Back the Choice of Pizza and French Fries,” the petition has gathered more than 500 signatures since being launched.
It can be tempting to disregard the picky ramblings of high school students. After all, is it really that big of a deal if kids have to eat a bit healthier while sitting at school? Yes, say Taylor and others. On the petition’s page, she runs down a number of important reasons why Obama’s standards should be tossed in the trash along with the new lunches:
Students are choosing not to eat because of limited choices.
The school is losing limited resources because lunches are just being thrown away.
Athletes need calories from appetizing food for intense after school practices.
Hunger makes concentrating hard which causes a decrease in grades.
School lunch is not appealing, even to a hungry student.
Commenters like Karin Guthrie of South Carolina outline their problem with the program in simple terms any parent can understand: “My son won’t eat school food anymore because he hates the way it tastes. He said it used to taste good but it has changed. He is now hungry all day.”
As much as administration officials might like to sweep these protests under the rug, the students are not exactly out on a scientific limb with their arguments. Health experts have for years found viable links between nutrition and learning. Under-nutrition, which is defined as simply not having enough to eat, can delay brain development and impair the ability to learn on a daily basis. Studies have shown a deleterious effect on standardized test performance among hungry children.
That there is an obesity problem in America is beyond dispute, but forcing students to choose between “healthy” meals and hunger is a non-starter. Let school districts work with parents to make their own programs to fight obesity and keep the clunky, hamfisted reach of the federal government out of it.