Iowa Congressman Steve King has introduced a bill aimed at lifting the lid on calories for school lunches. A maximum number of calories for the various age groups of school children went into effect this fall along with new food requirements aimed toward healthier school meals. The USDA defends the maximum calorie levels.
Representative King says ‘Michelle Obama’s “Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act” was interpreted by (USDA) Secretary Vilsack to be a directive that, because some kids are overweight, he would put every child on a diet.”
King’s proposed “No Hungry Kids Act” would repeal and prohibit “upper caloric limits.” The bill is co-sponsored by fellow Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.
Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, recently told Brownfield Ag News there have always been calorie minimums for school meals and, now finally, maximums.
Concannon says, “We’re very pleased that this is a much better focused and sized set of meal standards now for very young children, children in the middle grades, and high school children. There are different minimum and maximum calorie amounts based on age and that’s as it should be, really.”
He says it’s important to remember that lunch is just one meal of the day. “The school meals aren’t intended to meet ALL of the calorie requirements of a child during the day. They are to supplement that. As it is, the noon meals should meet about a third of the calories, the nutrients also, that that child should consume,” says Concannon.
Still, critics point out that parents and children have complained that there aren’t enough calories offered, especially for active students, and that the students report they are being underfed. Concannon says some schools participate in the National Snack program, which makes snacks available to students, but not all of them do.
On Monday, about 70 percent of the 830 students who normally take lunch at Mukwonago High School boycotted the lunch in protest of the new limits and the ten-cent increase in the price of the lunch to $2.50. District food service manager Pam Harris told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel while she is a passionate as anyone about childhood obesity, “limiting calories in school lunch is not going to help the overweight kid. What happens at home is a major piece of that puzzle.” Mukwonago is just southwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
~Bob Meyer contributed to this story~