Your tax dollars are still at work, attempting to convince parents to serve food at home more like the new, nutritious yet unappetizing school lunches our best and brightest have just imposed on the schools.
Responding to concerns that students are throwing away the healthy food on their cafeteria trays, the U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledged that adapting to the changes "may be challenging at first, as students are introduced to new flavors and foods in the cafeteria."This despite student pushback against the portion-controlled, limited-calorie, one-ration-feeds-all meals now on offer.
But the government also says parents can help school make the taste-transition easier:
"We know that many parents are already making changes at home to help the whole family eat healthier," the USDA blogged on Monday. "We recommend reviewing school menus with kids at home and working to incorporate foods that are being served at school into family meals as much as possible."
A recent video produced by high school students in Kansas mocked the healthy school lunches, showing young athletes fainting from starvation. "We are hungry," they lip-synched, as one by one they topple over.There was a similar protest in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, where a protesting student has a pithy description of what The Best and The Brightest have wrought.
The USDA blog appears to be a response to that satire:
"We know it is important that students get the calories and nutrition they need to stay alert and energized through the day, and schools are doing a number of things to make sure this happens," wrote Dr. Janey Thornton, USDA's deputy under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services.
Schools can "allow kids a certain amount of flexibility to choose only the foods they intend to eat," the blog said. "We refer to this as “offer vs. serve” (OVS). OVS allows students to decline one or two of the food items offered in a school lunch. Schools can decide how to implement OVS, including which grades and how many items can be declined."
Last year's fare featured favorites like chicken nuggets and mini corn dogs in helpings that were "relatively decent," [senior Joey] Bougneit said. But health-conscious regulations have changed that. Last week's super nacho plate, for example, offered just eight tortilla chips.The boycott is winding down, but students are learning something about the use of people power to limit the power of government.
Adding to the dissatisfaction is a 10-cent price hike on lunches because the USDA, which oversees the National School Lunch Program, forced many districts to raise full-price lunches closer to the $2.86 it reimburses for students who qualify for free lunches. That means the leaner, greener lunches at Mukwonago High this year now cost $2.50 instead of $2.40.
"Now it's worse tasting, smaller sized and higher priced," Bougneit said.
Mukwonago High School students are heading back to the hot-lunch line, feeling they made their point and their voices were heard.A lot has changed in fifty years. The Thursday newspaper might on occasion mention Italian pizza with sausage and cheese and a tossed salad. That's what everybody got, and if it was assembled out of government surplus ingredients, all we could do was joke about it.
With such a sharp drop in sales, Director of Food Services Pam Harris said the food program, which is self-funding, can't lose money for long before it might affect jobs.
"We wanted to make a statement to make it very clear that we weren't against the school, that we know this wasn't the school's doing at all, that we were against the federal government regulation, and we didn't want our protest against the federal government to affect the Mukwonago School District by laying off employees," said MHS Senior Class Vice President Ryan Williams. "We felt it was a good end because we got the result we wanted."
Despite the reductions in grains, with smaller sub buns, fewer nacho chips and smaller garlic bread servings, there is no overall reduction in the amount of food, said MHS Principal Shawn McNulty. The decrease in grains came with an increase in fruits and vegetables, an option some students enjoyed. Additionally, students had the option of purchasing pizza, a sub or food from the a la carte line, McNulty added.
"I think some people did like the healthy options," said MHS Senior Class President Nick Blohm.
Nick Blohm said he is going back to his old eating habits, but some kids discovered they enjoyed bringing their own lunches.
Collecting comments from parents and students, Harris said a common theme among parents was concern over the detailed way federal government is getting involved in personal lives. Additionally, parents don't seem to think that school lunches are much of a factor in contributing to obesity. Students' main concerns were with less food.
As Harris continues working with students to provide more lunch options and works on an appeal to allow the district additional time to adhere to the federal guidelines without penalty, students have been pleased with the way the boycott was handled overall.
"We learned that high school kids can make a difference, that their voices can be heard through a peaceful protest, through an organized protest of sorts, that the federal government shouldn't regulate what kids are eating," Williams added.