Digging Into The New School Lunch Rules

If my daughter, Kate, had bought her lunch at school today, here’s what she would be eating: macaroni and cheese, sausage links, dinner roll, canned pineapple, and milk (probably chocolate). Fat chance the pasta would be whole grain. As for the sausage, I wouldn’t count on chicken or turkey links. Take it from me, having volunteered in the cafeteria at Kate’s school and talked to moms at countless others, the lunch choices are lousy and the quality of the food served stinks too.

With all the hoopla last week about the USDA’s new rules from school lunch, I was hoping to get some relief from filling up her lunchbox next year. But then I actually read the 280 pages of nutrition standards (well, most of them anyway). While there are some wonderful changes that will take effect in fall—like at least half the grains served at lunch must be the more wholesome whole grains and all flavored milk must be non-fat—others don’t have to be implemented until 2022.

Seriously, the average school lunch contains 1,400 milligrams of sodium. The government’s own Institute of Medicine recommends that children, ages 4 to 8, receive no more than 1,900 milligrams in an entire day. By 2014, the USDA is requiring schools to drop the sodium in school lunch for kindergartners to fifth-graders to 1,230 milligrams or less. The agency doesn’t mandate that the sodium content be a reasonable 635 milligrams or less until 2022. Um, Kate will be a freshman—in college.

I also wish the new rules about produce had, well, more meat to them. Starting in fall, the USDA will require schools to serve a fruit and a veggie with lunch. But schools can dish out canned fruit in light syrup. According to the USDA’s National Nutritional Database, ½ cup of fruit cocktail packed in water contains 9 grams of sugar while the same amount packed in light syrup has 18 grams. That’s two extra teaspoons of sugar. How is that okay?

And there’s another pet peeve of mine that the rules don’t address: The amount of time that kids have to eat lunch. My daughter’s lunch period lasts 20 minutes—and by the time kids sit down with their trays, it’s more like 15. If your child needs help opening milk or has her hand raised for another reason, maybe she gets 10 minutes to gulp down her food. I have seriously scaled back what I pack Kate so she doesn’t feel like she has to woof it all down. Crazy as it sounds, I rely on small portions of healthy, higher-cal foods like nuts (if your lunchroom will allow), guac and whole-grain baked chips, or homemade pasta salad with olive oil and veggies. I never toss foods that take a long time to eat (like whole apples) in Kate’s lunchbox because I know she will spend 20 minutes trying to get to the seeds and not take a bite of anything else.

So, back to these USDA school lunch rules. Of course, they’re a giant step in the right direction. Parents advisor Elisa Zied, R.D., says: “The new rules will lead to better eating habits among school-age kids.” I don’t disagree. But, honestly, they’re still not good enough for me to sign up Kate for school lunch on most days. What’s in her pretty flower tote is a lot healthier than what’s on the cafeteria line. But I’m wondering, now that the USDA has made its healthy-school-lunch push, shouldn’t nutrition-minded parents like us follow up with our kid’s school and advocate for more sweeping changes? It seems to me that the USDA has opened the door for these conversations. Now we just have to come knocking.

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  1. by Kathy

    On January 30, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    After two years of packing my son’s lunch at the charter school, having him buy lunch at the public school has been an eye-opener. Too much fat, too many fried things and not enough fresh food. He loves fruit and I always buy fresh fruit. But after his first bought lunch at school, he reported he had had “mystery fruit.” He called it mystery because he couldn’t identify the fruit that ended as syrupy cubes out of a can. Yikes. Now I now carefully check the menu and most days decide to pack a healthy lunch.

  2. by Heather

    On January 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I feel most for the children on free and reduced lunch due to low income status. How does a poor child, who has no other choice but to eat what’s set in front of her, score in tests compared with peers whose parents can afford to pack her lunch? Not well. I’ll tell you that for free.

  3. by Allison

    On January 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I was really worried about the school lunches also. But I looked into when my son started his new school. He gets choices like turkey wraps, cheese pizza on whole wheat crust and chicken ceasar salads. and they have a fresh salad and fruit bar. i am really impressed with the school lunches here.

  4. by Tasha

    On January 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I have to comment in regards to heathers comment. We always got the free lunches in school growing up and the lunches haven’t changed since I was a kid. Both of my parents worked full time so it was easier for us to eat breakfast and lunch at school and I have to tell you that all 3 of my brothers and I ALWAYS tested through the roof. We all actually placed in classes for advanced students and traveled to another school twice a week to take classes there. I never had to study for any test ever, and always placed in the top 10%. Even for my army placement test. My recruiter failed to mention you could study for it, like so many do, and I was the youngest person in the room and the only girl and scored the highest out of the whole room. I was only 10 points from the highest score you can even get on the test. So saying that children who eat school lunches are pretty much going to end up dumb because of it, is in fact VERY wrong. I actually used to eat 2/3 school lunches a day. I would eat my friends or get another one. So if that’s the case all that awful food I ate, I’m surprised I can even use the internet, let alone spell my own name. Maybe you should think before you speak.

  5. by samantha

    On January 30, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    my child eats at school most of the time, she’s in kindergarden. most days she CHOOSES to have salad and frush fruit as our school district long ago (when I was still in school actually) made it manditory, at all grade levels, to offer fresh alternatives. And yes, it is a public school system. Teaching your children to eat right at home is where it starts, that doesnt always promise that they will make good health choices when you aren’t there, but it does make them think about it. Also, her school teaches health class even to the 5 year olds, about making good healthy eating habits. Its important that is starts at home. I know healthy foods are more expensive than the junk food, so lower income families (like mine) have a harder time buying them, but there are programs out there designed to help families who need it.

  6. by The Mama

    On January 30, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    The expression is “wolf it down”

  7. by Tiffany

    On January 30, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    In response to Tasha and Heather…As a teacher in a low-income school, I have to agree with Heather. I am appalled when I walk in the lunchroom in the morning and see my students having chocolate milk and cinnamon rolls for breakfast, then microwaved mini-hamburgers in a plastic wrapper for lunch. I don’t think Heather is saying that children are going to turn out dumb because of this, but when these kids are being loaded with sugar and processed foods, then have no snack in the afternoon, how can we expect them to concentrate at all, let alone compete with students eating plenty of protein and whole grains? I feel that these children are depending on us for their nutrition, and we are doing a great disservice to them by feeding them all this junk food. I also have to agree with the author about the amount of time children have to eat lunch. My students also have 20 minutes for lunch, but usually get 10-15 by the time they actually sit down to eat. I have walked in the lunchroom with 10 minutes left in the lunch period and there are still children standing in line. I have students crying that they didn’t have time to eat, but I can’t allow them to eat in the classroom. It is heart-breaking, especially when I know some of them will not eat when they get home. We have to start taking better care of our kids.

  8. by Mrs. F

    On January 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Just imagine how much time your child’s teacher gets to eat. I have to walk the kids to the cafeteria, then get my lunch, heat it, eat it and return to get them in 25 minutes. I usually eat standing up in about 5 minutes time! Not healthy for the teacher either!

  9. by Lane

    On January 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    I have a First Grader, and really struggle with lunches. I am learning to be better organized so I make the time to pack him a healthy lunch. I wouldn’t let my son eat fast food 7 days a week, so why do I let the school serve him fast food for every lunch?

    Thanks for posting this and strengthening my resolve to spend the 10 extra minutes every day.

  10. by Nicole

    On January 30, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    My children also only have 20 minutes to stand in line, get their lunches and then sit down to eat. I think it’s utterly ridiculous! Am I crazy or when we parents were kids didn’t we have 45 minutes or so for lunch & recess? I also agree with you about the nutritional value of their lunches. I don’t mind if their milk choice is whole milk or not. They burn off whatever fat is in it anyway. I am so sick and tired of all the changes that have been made since we were kids. I think our lunches and schools were far better back in the 1980′s than it is today. I don’t ever recall being served lunches that weren’t good for me. We had spinach, green beans, corn , mashed potatoes, chicken, turkey, whole wheat rolls, hot dogs, pizza, etc. What was wrong with all that? Why does the school district or state/federal government have to mess with something the doesn’t need to be changed? Was/is it just to save a dollar?

  11. by Susan

    On January 30, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Heather and Tiffany- While I agree that school lunches need improvement, trying to say that students that eat breakfast and/or lunch at school do not do well is just plan wrong! You can’t possibly make that connection without knowing the child’s whole story! My children eat breakfast at school at least 3-4 days a week and eat school lunches 2-3 days a week. Yes, we are low income and receive free lunch. My children are very smart, straight A students! Please don’t make the assumption that because a child eats at school that they are not going to do well in school!

  12. by JESSICA

    On January 30, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    I am a mother of five children, so I know how hard it is for some parents to afford to pack lunches. We are a single income family, so I am an avid couponer and penny pincher : ) I always check the school lunches for the week due to the unhealthy foods served. I usually end up packing lunches, and I also keep fiber one or healthy snacks in my car for the kids to have after school as theyre usually hungry from not getting to eat all their lunch due to short lunch periods. I truly hope someday soon schools will realize how important this is for our kids.

  13. by Laurie

    On January 30, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    I agree with the time for lunch. Let’s give these kids at least 1/2 hour for lunch. My daughter barely eats lunch because there isn’t enough time. I give her a sandwich, a cereal bar, and a drink for lunch. By the time she gets home, she’s starving again. I have no idea how she makes it through the afternoon.

  14. by Deborah

    On January 30, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    @Heather,

    I group up on the free meals program. I am the first one to agree that what they gave was hardly food, but I graduated in the top 10% of my class with a 3.5 GPA and that is because I decide to graduate early. Don’t judge all children who have to school food, because some of them do not fit in your stereotype.

  15. by Lori

    On January 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    My mother has worked in a school cafeteria for almost 30 years now, I can tell you the school lunches have changed drastically. They used to make everything from scratch, honestly. From the entrees to the deserts. They followed recipes. Now days they have to serve what the state tells them to how they tell them to which means, Everything premade, prepackaged. The quality is horrible! They get so many complaints from the teachers and staff that remember the old days. We wonder why we are a nation of obese kids and adults. It’s because they don’t get the nutrition they need in our very vital and impressional ages!

  16. by brittany anders

    On February 3, 2012 at 7:47 am

    my daughters school serves flash frozen meals and chocolate vanilla or strawberry milk. So i pack her lunch and water everyday and she comes home with most of her lunch bc they have ten minutes total. Also recess is right after so to cut time for that they have to wear scarf glovea hat and coat while eating lunch. She a kindergartner! Its so crazy and sad at the same time. She also comes home starving everyday. Another thing ive noticed is ahe has had alot of difficult times using the restroom bc they r limited timed in the reateoom so if ahe has to go number two she holds it. I also have to send water in hwr bookbag bc they cant get srinks whenever they want. Its vwry important to drink water throughout the day and they viait the drinking fountain once after gym since they have a bathroon in classroom.very frustrating.

  17. by elaine

    On February 5, 2012 at 10:40 am

    What about the pink slime meat the school purchases? Its basically low grade meat that has been deemed inedible. It is basically the by product u see in dog food ingredients. However, mixed with pink slime (ammonia) it makes it edible. Look it up a chef did a video on it. Try youtube pink slime school lunch.

  18. by Jessi

    On February 5, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Until they stop classifying potatoes and corn as vegetables and take the SUGAR out of the flavoured milk, this won’t help. By including a fruit all it opens up is serving highly sugared CANNED fruit.

  19. by Kelly

    On February 5, 2012 at 10:52 am

    My kids eat a healthy breakfast & a healthy dinner. They like the school lunches and I don’t see anythign wrong with them the way they are now. The government needs to find better things to do with their time & money then decide what my children should eat. That’s my job. if I didn’t like what they were serving, I’d pack their lunch. Oh, and don’t give me that line of bull about the poor kids because I work at a grocery store. I know exactly what kinds of foods are being bought with the food stamp card and these kids are not being forced to eat bad things either. They’re already getting a free lunch and their parents could easily afford to pack their lunch as well with the unbelievable amount these people have on their cards. I wish my family had that kind of money to budget for food!

  20. by valerie

    On February 5, 2012 at 11:09 am

    My son in in kinder and he takes his lunch when they are having something he does not like. I agree they do not have enough time to eat the lunch period is 30 min long but if they have to go through the lunch line then it leaves them about 15 to eat. My son schools has recess before lunch so luckily they do not have to fight with jackets and such. I really do not think our lunches are all that bad but Texas has strict nutritional guidelines for schools, They offer a choice of meat then at least 2 veggies and a fruit. And if I am not mistaken milk has been lowfat in school since I was in school.

  21. by Miss Tiffany

    On February 5, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I work at a school and don’t let those lunches fool you. They are all pre packaged, soggy, and disgusting. It may say “whole wheat” pizza, but really what they are serving your kids is a huge slice of thick “wheat” pizza covered in soggy cheese. Nothing is homemade at the school anymore. Maybe if they went back to actually using fresh fruit and actually making food they wouldn’t have such a problem with the budget or with the nutritional value. It doesn’t have to be organic, but at least fresh. What our kids are eating is not worth the money. Lunches are 3.00 at our school. That’s 15 dollars a week, that’s close to 50 dollars a month for crap.

    Also at our school, the students now have recess before lunch. By the time they get them calmed down and in the cafeteria from being roudy outside they get about 10 minutes tops to eat. So sad.

  22. by Michele Rowe

    On February 5, 2012 at 11:57 am

    When I was in school(in the 1970′s), we had balanced (5 food groups)healthy homemade hot lunches, we had 45 minutes to eat, and then we went outside to play(apparently the schools next to us don’t allow for playtime after lunch)! And the experts can’t figure out why our children are all of a sudden growing up unhealthy! It doesn’t take brain surgery to figure this out! We need to go back to the way we use to do things! My daughter is going to start Kindergarten in a couple years! I will defiantly be involved, in what her school is doing!

  23. by Lin

    On February 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    The 20-min lunch is entirely too short, I agree. The only workaround is for me to go have lunch with my kids, because then, they’d be able to get seated earlier (since I walk them from their class to the cafeteria first) and they sit with me as long as they like. In other words, with a parent present, my kids are able to have a longer lunch period (of course overlapping outside recess) but they’re so happy to have me lunch with them that they dont mind lesser recess time. I do this once/twice a week as my workload permits. One other thing, when i do go to lunch with them, I usually pick up a hot lunch from a deli like Whole Foods’ as a treat.

  24. by Linda

    On February 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I usually don’t comment on stuff, but I felt the need to do it now. As a substitute cook, yes, I agree the kids should have more time to eat. My daughter always liked the school lunches and the salad bar with it. Believe me, she is definitely not obese from it. Yes, they do have to follow state regulations and they are trying to improve the lunches, they are starting to make some of the stuff from scratch again, sometimes don’t have enough time. Both of my kids are healthy, not obese and straight A students they ate hot lunch all through school and we paid for it, we did not get it for free. Some of these kids that might be the only meals they get through the day, I have been at a lot of different schools and the kids are usually thanking the cooks for the meal. Sometimes I think us parents could learn from the kids. I hope I didn’t offend anybody,but I really get tired of hearing the complaints.

  25. by Ben's Mom

    On February 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Parents, I encourage you to read this article from Dr. Sears: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/family-nutrition/food-labels/how-read-package-label It’s a start in the right direction. It will help you to decipher the in cryptic food label. Pay special attention to “reading between the lines” about carbohydrates and the “Nutritip: Beware of Low Fat” (not just desserts). Low Fat = More Sugar, including milk. They don’t call it “Nutrition Facts” for nothing.
    While most people feel that Chiropractors offer an unconventional way of thinking, my overall health has improved, IMHO, (via the Maximized Living Makeover) from taking the advice of my Chiropractor v. my medical doctor. Even my 16YO daughter has adopted this logic, after a grocery shopping excursion with me where we read labels. She will never eat another “multi-grain nutritional cereal bar” again.
    As with history, sometimes what we are taught isn’t accurate. Regardless, be informed and educated. Know your good fats and bad fats. Your brain NEEDS good fats.

  26. by jorjie

    On February 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    We are obviously all smart people here. So we know that if some foods leave you hungry, or tired or hyper followed by a crash and others leave you satisfied and able to focus. It is more difficult for students who are not naturally gifted to learn new information if they are hungry, tired, and or restless…

    As smart people we also know what is healthy, healthy means it has a nutritional value that is needed by our body’s to function properly. Just because we call it a fruit doesn’t make it healthy (especially when we soak it in sugar) . Schools serve pizza as a dairy, fruit, vegetable, bread, and meat. Because canned tomato sauce is both a fruit and veggi. We all know that after thanksgiving dinner we are tired (because of the turkey) so why feed our children turkey when we want them to be productive. Chicken nuggets… No actual chicken meat in those. Potatos can be healthy if you use sweet potatos instead of traditional white mashed… Or in school lunch case BOXED. Hotdogs… Ok we all understand how that is not heathy, right? It is not about what you call it, it is about What you use to make it.

    Kids who can take their lunch (with parents who understand 3 fruit roll ups, a box of juice, do not equall healthy) are at an advantage. This advantage is in overall health. What about schools that do not even allow lunches from home?

    By the way if you have a need to correct my typing go for it. between the iPad and my 8 month old you can understand proof read was not part of my 2 minutes to type this.

  27. by Loree Perry

    On February 5, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    I agree that there are issues with school lunch. They do tend to be less healthy. You should look in to what the school system in Los Angeles did. They did a broad sweeping change in the menu to make it more healthy and the kids wouldn’t eat it. Since not all kids know these healthy items they wouldn’t eat it. There needs to be a balance between healthy alternatives and foods kids love. Nutrition is all about balance. I am fortunate to work in a school system where the child nutrition department strives to serve fresh fruits and vegetables as well as moderating salt and sugar content.

  28. by Merete

    On February 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    As a current Cafeteria Assistant, I must say that I have been quite impressed at many of the lunches served in our schools. We do still make things from scratch, contrary to many opinions here. Homemade chili, pulled pork sandwiches on whole wheat buns, toasted cheese sandwiches, chicken and gravy on brown rice, spaghetti, whole grain macaroni and cheese, homemade vegetable soups and much more. We always offer vegetables and fruit…more often than not they are fresh and not canned. We recently served fresh kiwi! I’m always cutting apples, bananas and oranges. We serve a great salad. We even make homemade hummus! It is true that there are still the corn dogs (but they are turkey corn dogs), fish sticks and pizzas that come to us frozen – but it is not what we serve everyday. Our tater tots are often from sweet potatoes, though the kids don’t like them very much. We never fry anything in our kitchen, we use our ovens and stoves for cooking and reheating, not microwaves. We do not have chocolate milk available for breakfast, but do put it out at lunchtime. I’m not saying things are perfect, but I don’t think the choices are as dismal as many believe. Perhaps our school district is better than some, I don’t know. That said…we often find healthy food thrown away, yet we never seem to find the “less healthy” options in the garbage! We can put it on their tray, but we can’t make them eat it. I remember the terrible lunches when I was a kid and I am happy to say that our current school lunches do not resemble those in any way. We often have school staff buying lunch from us and commending us on a great meal. I think we’ve come a long way!

  29. by susan

    On February 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    i agree about the school lunches being nothing more then junk food, i look at the one my 1st grader brings me and see nothing but “amusement park” food on there, example pretzel and cheese is a lunch option. i dont allow my son to get school lunch for 2 reasons; 1) he has a very hard time with milk, dky but he does, so he drinks soy milk, when i asked the school about milk options for him they said he would just have to have water and juice, which he is allergic to grape juice, and 2) so i can actually see how much he eats. twice a wk i allow him to take a lunchable, but he takes the complete meal ones with either a sub or crackers, the other 2/3 days he takes sandwiches he makes himself, unless i run out of bread and/or sandwich meat then he is allowed a can of pasta as back up until i am able to afford some more sandwich materials, but he also takes his choice of dole 100% fruit juice fruit cups, 100% juice boxes and granola bars or 100 calorie cookie packs never fruit snacks or chips or candy or cakes, which we barely eat as it is. i was surprised how much junk he was given in head start and made my decision based on that and the milk issue.

  30. by Jen

    On February 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Oh great – the “vegetable” is probably pizza (since the U.s. government has now ruled it to be considered a vegetable – ridiculous!) and the flavored milk that has to be non-fat? …what about SUGAR-FREE? (that’s where all the “flavor” comes from and that’s what makes the kids addicted to the sweet stuff!) I don’t think they should even allow flavored milk in schools because in order for them to reduce the sugars in that stuff, they’d need to use a sweetener and that’s no healthier for the little ones (heck-it’s not good for anyone really… but once sweetener enters the bodies of young children, it never leaves – they can’t process it). Blech! I wish the Jamie Oliver project shows took off better – he really had a good thing going and I agree that our schools lunches need to be better (I still can’t get over how the U.S. government made pizza a vegetable)!

  31. by Terrie

    On February 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    25 years ago my first daughter had lunches in school it almost killed her. She is a diabetic and I had to pack her food becasue of sugar and sodium contents. They were through the roof!! I found out they are purchasing food from large surplus places, salvaged food. Not made from scratch like we had when we were young. and the time she had to eat it is insane Than most kids go home to fast instant food again paper plates, We lost the art of eating. So much stress in the school lundh room. Its nuts. Go an visti any luch room and try to do that everday!

  32. by Terrie

    On February 5, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I hope the parents of the smart children know that they may be very smart with heart diesase. What a waste of a brain. To have diabets or heart diease and be smart doesnt make sense.I know for a fact the sodium levels are so dangerous. I had met with my daughters doctors and her physical health was suffering becasue of the suagar and sodium leves in food.

  33. by Susan

    On February 5, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    As a teacher that has spent my share of time on lunch duty, I’ve had a window on the world of school lunches for many years. West Virginia has been working on improving the nutrition in their school lunches over the last 6 or 7 years. All bread is wheat, even our Northern West Virginia favorite, pepperoni rolls. Fruit is a portion everyday. Most of the time it’s fresh. Children can have milk and a juice each meal. Kids are very big on yogurts, too. Added salt and butter etc is strictly limited. Our kids have 30 minutes to eat and relax, if it’s nice, we go outside. Not perfect, but I’ve seen and heard about much, much worse. HOWEVER, on the other hand, I constantly shake my head at the content of the majority of the home-packed lunches. About 1/2 bring “lunchable-type” pre-packaged meals, daily. Others have several layers of deserts. Some even bring pop, even at the elementary grades. There are only a couple that bring very nice, well-planned lunches and actually eat them. The squeezable yogurts are big in this group, too. You’d be amazed at the amount of food that both hot lunch and cold lunch groups throw away, however. Yes, lots of those well-planned packed lunches and the expensive store-bought lunch packets end up in the trash can. I forgot to mention about the “trading” that the kids will do during lunches as well. So, some children will consume more than the carefully measured portions required by the child nutrition guidelines, while others will eat less. For the home-packed lunches, then same can be said. In addition, many times a child had said to me, My mom knows I don’t like this flavor of “such-n-such”, or my mom didn’t pack me a drink, or I don’t have money for milk. There are many, many variables for sure in making sure our children are healthy and fed good meals.

  34. by Kristy

    On February 5, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I think the flavoured milk should contain less sugar then what they do!

  35. by Mom of 2

    On February 6, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Just because a child is on free or reduced lunch does not mean they will be dumb. In fact my son gets free lunch and is above average on everything he has tested for. Something is better than nothing for the kids eating breakfast at school. My sons eat at home and I usually pack their lunch because that’s what the want. Our school offers fresh fruit also. Part of the problem is not only the time they get. I have had lunch with my kids and they get 30 mins. The majority of the kids are to busy playing and talking to their friends then they are to eat. I’m not saying things couldn’t be better because they can. Let’s not blame the school for everything! I know my kids talk an socialize just like I did. They won’t starve before coming home and getting a snack.

  36. by Mrs. Phillips

    On February 6, 2012 at 12:07 am

    I am a teacher at a low income middle school in California (90% of our students receive feee and/or reduced lunch and breakfast).

    I am HORRIFIED at the items being served to the students (pre-packaged and re-heated foods). I find it hard to believe that with all of the tax dollars being used for funding; that the quality of food is so low. I am anxious to see the changes in the food served to the students.

    My students get a 30 minute lunch period (as do I) and it IS NOT enough time for them to eat AND use the restroom. But don’t expect the lunch time to increase because that would mean students would loose instructional minutes OR the school day would increase (more minutes) and that means an increase in teacher pay (based on the current economic status of the nation that seems highly unlikely)

    I agree with Tiffany’s comments regarding poor diet (from school lunch) and the performance of students.

  37. by Molly

    On February 6, 2012 at 1:16 am

    I noticed some really kind of angry responses from people who work in the field either as cafeteria workers or nutrition specialists. I don’t know if some people are specifically stating that they blame schools for childhood obesity, but I didn’t get that vibe from the article. The message I saw was that cafeteria’s are going to stop serving so much crap and serve healthier alternatives. I think that’s great! In a day where you read an article about a 17 year old British girl who’s eaten nothing but McDonald’s chicken nuggets for her entire life (literally no veggies or fruit ever) because her mom gave up trying to get her to eat something else, I think it’s awesome that kids are at least getting the chance to have something healthy if there’s parents like that in the world. You’re right, health starts in the home, I have one daughter who is four that won’t eat veggies at all but LOOOOOOOOOVES fruit and the other wh is 2 that likes veggies and fruit both. Some of our choices for meals have been pretty unhealthy though and with the prices of food (veggies and fruit and other healthy choices) are often very expensive and many families now are stuck buying the cheaper stuff. What’s disgusting is that the cheap stuff is the crap. We’ve had a LOT of struggle financially the past few years and groceries just keep going up and up. Still, my girls are a healthy size and are very active. I think this country needs to work on fixing the prices of produce and healthier meals so that low income families can purchase them over the garbage. 10 packages of pasta for $10 — why not 3-4 lbs of fruit/veggies for $10?

  38. by Amy

    On February 6, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I think that it is great they are trying to get the kids eating better but because of this change all the companies are making their products now with more whole grains. Good for the majority of people but now kids like my daughter who have medical disabilities are more at harm. This is becuase she isn’t allowed whole grains due to the high Phenanalinene percentage. With her PKU she has to be on a strict low Phe low protein diet or it can cause her to have brain damage or worse if long term results occur. I’m glad they are trying to help these kids but with all of the changes all they are doing is hurting mine by taking away more foods that she once was able to have as long as it was counted into servings. Now she hardly has anything that she can eat from the grocery store other than fruits and some vegetables.

  39. by Bre

    On February 7, 2012 at 1:29 am

    It is not wrong and yes connections can be made ,the studys show that kids on free or reduced lunch do worse in school it is not because the foods making them stupid, it because most of them are starve until they are feed at school. How can you expect a child to study if they are starving this is all the study shows clam down they need to maake better lunches yes and they need to make lunch an hour long. I am a new mom just out of school our graduating class had 600 people in senior year and we had to eat lunch with juniors in 30 mins with only two lunch lineshave of us would not eat others couldnt and most brought lunch it always made me feel bad and i never got in line because all the kids that got free or reduced lunch never even got the chance to make it through the line before the bell. school lunches need to be fixed not in 2022 but right now.

  40. by Amanda

    On February 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    It bothers me that people are blaming the cost of healthy foods. In my grocery store it’s $o.69 for a lb of bananas. My kids will take a banana over a “fruit snack” any day. A lb of pre-cut carrots is $2.59 Way less if you cut and wash the darn things yourself. Spinach, Kale, heads of lettuce (yes, again, wash it yourself!) all under $2.00.

    Eating fresh can be cheaper than fast food!

    For lunch today I made my family spinach, egg, turkey and cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bagels. For our family of 5 it came out to just over 3 dollars a person. Healthier than fast food, healthier than school lunches, and a whole lot cheaper.

  41. by Caylee

    On April 15, 2012 at 4:17 am

    I completely agree with Heather and Tiffany. Kids that are stuck eating whatever the state puts in front of them are less likely to be able to maintain good concentration on the whole. The lack of quality brain fuel will result in poor performance. Yes, there are those who are able to survive and thrive under adverse conditions. Yes, the basics are being met (that’s a very grudging qualification). However unless the district is progressive in providing the best quality and wide variety of truly healthy items, the children that at no fault of their own are forced to function on sub par “meals” are going to be disadvantaged and will more often than not fall below standards. Simple cause and effect. Poor nutrition = poor performance.

    As a single mom on one income I pack my daughters’ lunch every day. I send enough for her to have two snacks in addition to lunch. Since we are a gluten free family it’s not easy, it takes planning, and I do stress over what I send. The foods my baby is ingesting right now have the potential to have a lifelong impact. I’m not rich, I have little time after a 40 hour workweek, but it is possible.

    Could I rely on the state to provide? Yeah. Will I? Not a chance.

  42. by Caryn

    On April 26, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I am fortunate that my children are in a school district that runs a very good lunch program. I recently went to the lunchroom to get the facts about what and how the school is working with new regulations. One of the most amazing parts was to see the cafeteria workers in a kitchen that does not have a fryer and still managing to make food for the children that is relatively healthy and appealing. I meet with the district supervisor who has been implementing changes since 2008 because the community has advocated for their children, not because the government told them to.

    It is easy to shift the blame but the responsibility for our children’s health does start in the home, and from birth. I can not say my kids are the best eaters but I can say the school district is trying to support the children learning healthy habits. They are even starting a campaign to market the healthy choices to kids. This in itself is a feat considering they are competing with major corporations that hire specialist to market products to children.

    The government involvement in this issue is appropriate considering the economic impact of the school lunch programs. There is approximately 40 million breakfasts and lunches served nationwide on a daily basis. This is a major social issue and because so many different regions have different standards it is better to have some of the more successful models be able to be adapted to regions that have less healthy options.

    After doing a lot of research on the subject I do think it is a step in the right direction and we should continue to build on the platform for the sake of the nations’ children and society as a whole.

  43. by Susan

    On August 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    For the most part the school lunches are healthy. They are balanced meals. There may chicken nuggets on their tray but there is also a fruit and a vegetable. You can put all the healthy foods on the trays that are required but you can’t make them eat them. I can’t believe that kids at home never get a cookie or a piece of cake or something sweet. No matter what they get at school, it is measured out so it’s not like they are getting unlimited unhealthy food. There’s nothing wrong with a cookie now and then. I think the Federal Government needs to focus more on physical education in our schools. Our children wouldn’t be overweight if we worried more about them getting up and moving. We are so focuced on unhealthy school foods yet when our kids come home they sit in front of a computer or the tv all night. When my kids were in school, I didn’t pack their lunch. They ate at school. When they got home they played (burned off what they ate) outside till dark. I COULD NOT get them to eat fruits or vegetables. It was better for them to eat something than nothing. Today my kids are heathy and NOT overweight. We need balance between food and exercise. One is no good without the other.
    Oh, and the school pizza qualifies as 2 oz. meat, whole grain and 1/8 of a vegetable.

  44. by kari doctor

    On August 23, 2012 at 11:00 am

    The new school lunches are ridiculous.I dont know a 5 year old that eats cucumber tomato salad,normandy blend veggies or cooked cabbage.All of my friends are having to pack lunches except for the ones who cant afford to and their kids are coming home very hungry.I agree things shouldnt be fried or sugar coated,but baked chicken nuggets,mac and cheese,pizza,hamburgers etc are not bad foods,thay are kid foods.Isnt that who they are serving? Not 75 year olds in a nursing home.Mrs.Obama needs to worry about her husbands drinking and smoking and keep her hands offff MY children.

  45. by Angie

    On August 24, 2012 at 11:03 am

    My daughter is an athlete and is very active. She has womens fitness 4th period and then volleyball practice after school. She is starved by then becuase she either hates these new lunches or they do not serve her enough. The menu is ridiculous. I agree with the other parents. Michelle Obama needs to let us worry about our own kids and she needs to worry about her husband killing himself and other people with second hand smoke. I feel like we are living in a communist country…people dictating what, when, and how much our kids eat.

  46. by Elizabeth

    On August 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I am only a high school student, and I’m not entirely sure how I got to this website, but I feel like I should add my two cents, from a child’s perspective. Our ‘new’ lunches are absolutely ridiculous. Most schools can’t afford food that is actually good for you, so with the new calorie based meals, we just get less food. Last week I had 4 mini corndogs. For an entree. My middle school brother got 3, then had to go to football practice. I have seen people this close to breaking out in fights over someone’s leftovers, and increase in the buying of cheap chips at a la carte, and students going out to eat. You know a school can’t afford fresh food when a kiwi once a month is a treat, and we haven’t fixed the leaky sinks. Or the cricket problem…
    TL;DR My classmates and I are starving, and we still don’t have mandatory PE classes.

  47. by Bethany

    On September 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I agree with Kari Doctor and Elizabeth.

    The government doesn’t need to be in what my kids eat. That’s my business and responibility which I take seriously. If I pack a brownie with her lunch, I’m not ruining my kid. I know, if you don’t like what the school serves, pack a lunch. However; schools are starting to tell parents what they can pack for my kids as well.

    Should they make lunches healthier? Sure. I’m not against that, but the portion sizes are toddler portions, not for growing teenagers like mine.

    My daughter came home yesterday saying that the fajita lunch was some meat on a tortilla. You pay 60 cents extra for cheese in a tiny plastic serving cup? No lettuce? One small carton of milk? I don’t have a problem with flavored milk. Big deal.

    And like Elizabeth mentioned, the kids are doing what she says as my daughter confirmed it. We’ll go back to the days when kids bullied each other over food and stealing it from each other like when I was a kid.

    A lot of the other kids just aren’t eating lunch like my son and go home to each lunch after school. I found that out the other day. He says he’s just fine and doesn’t need school lunch as it’s not enough. He also worries that the school will start going through his packed lunch and said it was easier to eat after school.

    Thanks to the new mandates, kids are waiting to go home to eat or hoping their lunch isn’t stolen or have to deal with bullying from someone else who is still hungry.

  48. by School Nutrition Director

    On September 27, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    School lunches have always had to meet very restrictive government standards–even before the new regulations from the Michelle Obama and the USDA. The real problem is putting all kids in the same box. You can not give all kids a diet of 750-850 kcals when their activity level is so varied. The football player and the computer kid or XBOX kid do not need or use anywhere near the same amount of kcals.

  49. by Bobbie Gustafson

    On February 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    if the schools are feeding the kids GMO foods and processed foods, vegetables and fruits laden with pesticides and processed milk…then kids are being loaded with chemicals. But…at least it gives Michelle something to do and the administration is making parents think they actually care about them.

  50. [...] it seems as though school lunches don’t even consider this number. In fact, according to Parents Magazine, “the average school lunch contains 1,400 milligrams of sodium,” 200 milligrams more than the [...]

  51. [...] Source 3- Digging Into The New School Lunch Rules [...]