A group of Kansas highschoolers express their displeasure for Michelle Obama’s new 850-calorie school lunches in a YouTube parody entitled “We are Hungry.”
Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act – inspired by the first lady’s Let’s Move! campaign – lunch meals for 9th through 12th graders are now limited to 850 calories. As the singing students appear weak and collapse during the video, they argue that the new limitations don’t provide enough food for fast-growing students or student athletes. The USDA disagrees.
“The amount of food on a kid’s plate is not much different than in years past,” says Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “It is simply healthier.
“Student athletes’ appetites and calorie needs are going to be greater than the inactive student,” says Constance Brown-Riggs, registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, but she adds that, at 850 calories, they are also not at risk for malnourishment.
“[They] may need to bring snacks from home to meet their enormous appetites,” she adds.
The national USDA guidelines state that schools cannot offer meals with more than 850 calories, even in special circumstances such as athletes or pregnant teens. However, USDA officials told theGrio that if students are still hungry, they are welcome to have additional fruit, vegetables or low-fat dairy products.
Students are also concerned about those who don’t eat their entire lunch — in particular, the fruits and vegetables — thus decreasing their caloric intake even more. Brown-Riggs says that ditching the fruit and vegetable portion could set them back 110 calories per plate.
In the comedic video, desperate, hungry students sneak out of the school to get their hands on tasty snacks, and even don masks to rob a classroom refrigerator.
But, according to Brown-Riggs, the issue of calorie-control is a serious one, and not meant to starve children.
“More than one-third of children and adolescents in schools are overweight or obese — these are the children at greatest risk of preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease,” she says. Brown-Riggs is also author of The African American Guide To Living Well With Diabetes and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.
“These are the children who will benefit the most from the new guidelines,” she adds.
Dr. Tyeese Gaines is a physician-journalist with over 10 years of print and broadcast experience, now serving as health editor for theGrio.com. Dr. Ty is also a practicing emergency medicine physician in New Jersey. Follow her on twitter at @doctorty or on Facebook.