School lunch changes hard to swallow

To the editor:

Thousands of school cafeterias are transitioning to new health and nutrition standards as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 initiated by Michelle Obama. According to the new guidelines, schools are required to serve more whole grains, offer only low-fat or nonfat milk, dish out mandatory helpings of fruits and vegetables, and limit the number of sugary and salty items. The new standards’ objectives are to reduce childhood obesity and “combat child hunger while improving the health and nutrition of the nation’s children,” but it seems the act is trying to legislate health and limit freedom of choice.

As a high school junior, I feel the changes to food options and portion sizes have become restrictive. While the new regulations decrease the quantity of food served, they are increasing prices. Nationwide, the cost of a lunch has jumped by 20 to 25 cents. In order to receive standard meal pricing at EHS, students’ meals must meet the act’s guidelines – otherwise they will be charged for each item.

Schools aren’t making these drastic changes for purely altruistic reasons. Each lunch that meets the new standards contributes 6 cents for the school. Assuming around 60 percent of EHS students purchase a school lunch daily, the total reward could be approximately $237,048/year. That’s not enough to cover the additional spending on the new program.

The new guidelines require schools to reduce portion sizes and replace many traditionally-served foods. Fist-sized wheat rolls or multigrain wraps replace 6-inch French bread, and sweet potato fries replace beloved curly fries. To many students, these changes are literally hard to swallow. Mandating students to purchase items they don’t want leads to waste. School meals are becoming less appealing, smaller sized and higher priced.

While the act may have been created with good intentions, students are unhappy and unsatisfied.

Coercing youth to purchase certain foods is unnecessary government interference and limits students’ rightful freedom of choice. Students deserve the liberty to choose foods they want without executive authority intervention. Schools should offer the new USDA guidelines as a healthy option but not penalize students who don’t adhere to it.