- New lunch guidelines passed in 2010 as part of Michelle Obama's health initiative (the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act) limit the amount of calories school lunches can provide.
- The number, 850, is forcing many to go hungry, as the restrictions don't account for active vs. inactive students or boys vs. girls.
- One group of teens (with the help of teachers) in Kansas created a video mocking the restrictions called "We Are Hungry" and it's gone viral.
- Some Republican lawmakers are trying to get the calorie limits repealed.
On Monday night, several stories popped up regarding students revolting against Michelle Obama's new "healthy" school lunch mandates that restrict the amount of calories schools can serve. And while there are plenty of facts, information, and even interviews, nothing captures the heart of the story as much as a viral video made by a small group of high school kids mocking the program. So who are these kids and what sparked the video? We went digging and found out.
But before we reveal the story behind the video, here's a compilation of stories framing the issue (all emphasis added).
In Wisconsin, high school athletes are complaining about not getting enough to eat each day, due to the skimpy new school lunch menu mandated by the United States Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama.
The story we published earlier this week on that subject is unfortunately not unique. Students across the country are complaining about the new school lunch regulations.
Perhaps the real motive is to starve students into slimming down. Just ask students in Pierre, South Dakota who, too, are in an all-out revolt.
"I know a lot of my friends who are just drinking a jug of milk for their lunch. And they are not getting a proper meal," middle school student Samantha Gortmaker told Keloland.com.
Despite the fact that the new regulations have increased the cost of a lunch 20 to 25 cents per plate, it’s not pleasing students.
Some are throwing away their vegetables while others are adapting to the rules by becoming industrious. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, students have created a black market - for chocolate syrup. The kiddie capitalists are smuggling in bottles of it and selling it by the squeeze, according to SouthCoastToday.com.
High schools are now forbidden from giving pupils more than 850 calories for their lunch - even if they are fast-growing teenagers or even student athletes.
Now that the rules have come into effect for the new school year, many are concerned that some adolescents are being denied the quantities of food they need.
Student athletes can burn through as many as 5,000 calories a day - but they are still entitled to no more than 850 calories for their lunch.
Even though recommended calorie intake is different for males and females, the restrictions are the same for both boys and girls.
As he grabbed lunch before a road trip to Malta for a football game, junior Joey Kercher quickly ate two slices of pizza, grapes and milk.
Then he left the school cafeteria for McDonald’s and his second lunch.
School lunch “is not enough,” he said.
Thanks to new USDA rules, Kercher could have had however many servings of vegetables he wanted — though he skipped the first helping of cucumbers and salad offered, calling them “not appetizing” — but couldn’t have seconds on pizza.
Sharing his table, junior Michael Kraft said he goes home for lunch because the school’s offerings “don’t fill me up.”
Sometimes he eats carrots, but generally he eats “whatever I can find” and skips the veggies.
'Fabulous ... but'
Lofty goals of improving youth eating habits and hard realities of hungry students are colliding in school cafeterias across the state. In Cut Bank, less than half as many students as last year at this time eat school lunch, from an average of 110 to 48.
New USDA school lunch guidelines, part of President Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, require doubling the servings of fruits and vegetables, with less sodium and fat and no meat for breakfast. The rules limit calories, so as First Lady Michelle Obama has said, school lunches don’t undo parents’ efforts to ensure their children eat healthy meals.
The problem, however, is in the limit of protein — meats, cheese, sour cream, yogurt (but not milk) — and grains to 2 ounces each for young children and 3 ounces for high schoolers. The new rules set the minimum at only 1 oz. of protein per meal, said Salley Young, a Montana School Nutrition Association executive board member and food service manager at Greenfield Elementary School.
In rural communities, some students get on the bus at 7:15 a.m., have school all day and then participate in activities in the evening, pushing dinner time to 8 p.m. or later, meaning they need more food than the minimums set, she said.
So what are students left to do if they are going hungry? Make a viral video, of course. That's what the teens at Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs, Kansas, decided to do -- and it's been effective.
Those students created a parody of the popular hit "We Are Young" called "We Are Hungry." It follows a group of high schoolers around school as they struggle to complete classwork, sports, and other tasks because they are too hungry to properly function due to the small and inadequate lunches. It was posted Sept. 17, has over 66,000 views, and has became a rallying cray of sorts:
“There’s just not enough," Callahan Grund, a 16-year-old football player who is featured in the video, told the Kansas City Star regarding the school lunches.
“When you have chores in the morning and football practice after school, you need energy," he added, later saying, "This doesn’t cut it."
But the irony is that the video is not solely the work of the students. In reality, the parody was penned by a local teacher who got upset after she saw a colleague's Facebook post. The Star explains:
Linda O’Connor, an English teacher at Wallace County High School, penned the “We Are Hungry” parody after a colleague, Brenda Kirkham, posted a photo of her school lunch on Facebook and sparked dozens of outraged comments.
The lunch included one cheese-stuffed bread stick, a small dollop of marinara sauce, three apple slices and some raw spinach. Kirkham supplemented the lunch with items from a salad bar, including cubes of ham, bacon bits and dressing, which were available only to teachers.
“I asked why the sauce had no meat and I was informed that due to the breadsticks containing cheese, the meat would put us over the guidelines for protein,” Kirkham, the teacher, wrote on Facebook.
“Now think of a high school boy who works out at least three hours a day, not including farm work. … I’m furious. The ‘cheese’ inside the breadstick is approximately three bites. This is ridiculous.”
And now many are revolting against the system -- even the teachers.
“I have quite a few football guys come in here, and I’m like, ‘Hurry up and eat so it doesn’t get on your project,’ ” Kirkham told the Star. “I mean, they’re starving.
Some legislators are trying to get involved. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican from Kansas, is working with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to repeal the calorie limits in the new lunch legislation adopted in 2010.
“If every member of Congress would actually go into a school cafeteria and take a look at the trash can, they’d see that what sounds good on paper doesn’t always work out like you think,” he told the Star.