Lunchtime poll – healthier school food
January 13th, 2011
12:15 PM ET
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As reported earlier today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new proposed rule designed to strengthen school breakfast and lunch nutrition standards, as part of the Obama administration's attempt to crack down on an epidemic of childhood obesity. The new regulations set calorie limitations, cut saturated fat and sodium and increase the availability of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk.

Sounds sensible and ambitious, right? Will it actually work?

Read what what Tom Colicchio, Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver and others have to say about school lunch reform

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Filed under: Buzz • Food Politics • Lunchtime Poll • School Lunch • White House

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Bryce

    The really killer is the additives, such as high fructose corn syrup, which studies show to be added to foods mainly because they stimulate the appetite, keeping people hungry and always wanting more. I agree with starches, as well as whole grains, which are converted into glucose (sugars) for the body to burn or store. Lobbyists in the food industry control the FDA and manipulate public opinion on what we should be eating and buying. Almost all of the major issues within our country will go away when lobbyist and corporate special interests are no longer able to control our ability to govern.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Bryce

      i meant to say I agree with cutting down on starches and whole grains. . .

      January 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  2. abbyful

    When I was in grade school, up until 3rd grade it was a rule amongst the teachers that the kids had to eat all of one of the bottom section of the tray and at least try the other bottom section. (The bottom sections where the entree and vegetable.) Then we had to ask if we could go on top sections of the tray; the fruit & dessert. None of that just eating dessert.

    And why do school lunches serve dessert every day anyway? Dessert should be for special meals, like the Thanksgiving school lunch or maybe a once-a-month thing. Even once-a-week would be better than every day, make desserts only served on Friday or something.

    And we never had chocolate milk every day. Chocolate milk was a treat, it was only offered 1-2 times a month.

    These are common-sense things that could be done without trying to overhaul the entire system all at once!

    I don't have kids yet, but when I do, if school lunches are anything like they are now, I'll be brown-bagging their lunches.

    January 14, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • abbyful

      And I think they need to cut carbs, not fat. (Well, cut the bad fats and keep the good fats. And saturated fat isn't a "bad fat", that data is outdated.) Dietary fat doesn't equal body fat.

      January 14, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  3. Roger

    Do the math, there are 21 meals in a week and school lunch only covers 5 of them at the most. What you eat at home is more important then at school.

    January 14, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • abbyful

      24% of your meals is still a significant portion. And some of the kids that eat breakfast at school, that's 50% of their meals eaten at school.

      January 14, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • quantitativegirl

      Yes, the majority of kids eat only 5 of 21 meals at school, and for only 9 months a year. That's less than 18% of their meals. What they eat at home is far more important. Don't blame the schools. Parents need to be more responsible. And if they don't like the school lunch, send a sack lunch to school with your kids. It doesn't take that much time to make a peanut butter sandwich and to drop an apple or a banana and a few carrots in a bag. Stop whining!

      October 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  4. JJ

    Maybe the focus should simply be on *less lunch* rather than a horde of new rules.

    January 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  5. Ken

    Changing the lunches might help some, but making sure the teachers are not obese will do even more. Children look up to the teachers as role models. If you visit most elementary schools, you will see most teachers obese or very obese. Put them all on no fat or no paycheck. See the kids behavior change!

    January 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  6. Kilroy

    I was here

    January 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • CJ

      Long time no see, welcome back...

      January 20, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  7. bwright

    The problem with healthy school lunches is often budget and food preparation. I worked for 8 years in a school system and the food quality and quantity declined every year I was there. The "lunch ladies" are not sure how to prepare the food in a healthy manner and still have it taste good. Presentation is often lacking. We all know if it doesn't look good kids won't eat it. They are not allowed to use the fryers anymore but won't spend the money necessary to buy foods that bake or broil well. In our school system the serving portion is the same whether it is for a high schooler or a kindergartener. For MANY of the students these are really the only meals they will eat in a day.

    January 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  8. Cindy

    My kids are on the new lunch plan, and they are not eating well at school. They don't like the "healthier" choices, and simply choose not to eat. We are probably going to start packing lunch again. I don't think forcing an eating style on the kids at school will work for everybody.

    January 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • JJ

      Serving mass-prepared lunches at school sounds kinda socialist anyway and we can't have that. Each individual should be self-reliant enough to take care of themselves withouit the crutch of government, including preparation of food. Make your own, whatever you can afford.

      January 13, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • fnc5404

      wow. most people would feel grateful that their children would be given such an opportunity. it's sad that your kids need to be "forced" into eating healthier...

      January 20, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  9. cindy

    It won't work. In fact it may cause the problem to be worse. The food will not taste good to them and they will not eat it. I work in a kindergarten and I know.. if they don't like it.. they just don't eat. Eventually they may begin to eat it just out of hunger, but will still not like it. And forcing them to eat something they don't like will probably make them crave the things they do want and lead to binge snacking and eating after school.

    January 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  10. Erin

    I think this is great, especially the part about adding fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. I remember when I was in school the school lunches looked disgusting (I never actually ate them). If the cafeteria had sold apples or carrot sticks I would have been a lot happier – and eaten a lot less cookies. I think the biggest difference would come if they incorporated fresh ingredients into their food, but I doubt that'll happen with schools already on such tight bugets.

    January 13, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  11. moe

    Healthier lunch requirements for school while cutting the majority of the school's free althetic programs? I believe there is a stronger link between a child's sedentary lifestyle and obesity rather than one meal eaten five times a week.

    January 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  12. J.Morgan

    No, it will not help it. Our school starting a healthy eating requirement this year. So now instead of the normal nachos, they have whole grain nachos – but now they taste so bad, the kids are required to buy them but don't eat so they are really hungry by the end of the day. Whole grain chips with artificial cheese doesn't make it any healthier really. Until they choose to really provide healthier food altogether, and have food actually cooked in the school and not shipped there and just put in a warmer before serving, I expect we will either have a lot of hungry children or more of the whole grain nachos problem.

    January 13, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  13. J.B.Jingles

    I think that if the kids see this as acceptable food choices they will be better for it, but unfortunately there will always be the "cool crowd" with chips, sweets, etc. that they begged/bullied their parents into buying for granddaughter asks for fruit instead of cookies! Not sure where she got that from, but they are teaching nutrition in Kindergarten these days!

    January 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  14. jillmarie

    I'm all for it. I wish they had these standards when I was a kid- I wouldn't eat school lunches. I liked healthy food at a young age. I hope when I do have kids this helps them learn healthy habits early on, besides what they see me eating or feed them.

    January 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  15. Evil Groan

    I think it'll make a real difference in some cases. For a lot more kids than you'd think, school lunch is their one meal (or their main meal) each day. Which means the new nutrition standards will make a much bigger impact on their general health. That's a big deal for them.

    And I do think that to some extent, if kids eat healthier foods consistently, they'll crave healthier foods. I know a kid who will pick a baggie of carrots over a baggie of doritos every time, because that is what she's been exposed to up to now, and she's developed a taste for it.

    But I think a lot depends on what the purpose of the change is. If the purpose is simply to do their part and provide the healthier lunches and hope it helps, that's been accomplished. If the purpose is to educate kids and steer them towards making healthy choices, then more needs to be done than just offering different lunch choices. The kids need to know why they are getting an apple instead of french fries.

    January 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  16. Truth

    I think bringing back PE to schools would also be an excellent idea. I used to eat like a horse when I was a kid, but my paper route also caused me to ride my bike for five miles every day.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
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