Students’ Snub of School Lunch Reform Rallies Republicans

Photograph by Hans Pennink/AP Photo

Students select food items from the lunch line of the cafeteria at a middle school in Rotterdam, N.Y. The leaner, greener school lunches served under new federal standards are getting mixed grades from students.

Students have long complained about the school lunch food. In an ironic twist, they’re now complaining they want more of it on their cafeteria plates — and they’ve found sympathy in Republicans eager to unseat President Barack Obama and their Democratic challengers in state races.

Republicans like Rep. Steve King of Iowa — who happens to be in a tight race against his challenger, Christie Vilsack, who is also the wife of the U.S. Agriculture Secretary — is among those championing students who say reforms to the federal lunch program are leaving them hungry, Bloomberg News reports today.

King says he introduced legislation that would repeal calorie caps set up under a new U.S. rule because the lunch overhaul is a case of government overreach.

“The reason I introduced it is that I was hungry on the school lunch program before they started to ration calories,” he said.

So why are students upset? They say they welcome more fruits and vegetables mandated under the rule, which went into effect this school year. They argue though that they’re not getting enough grains and protein to take them through the day. They’re taking to school lunch boycotts, Twitter campaigns and YouTube parodies that have gone viral to make their point.

Nutritionists aren’t as sympathetic as some of the Republican detractors. Students are getting plenty of calories — up to 850 calories at lunch for high schoolers — and children today already get far more protein than they need on a daily basis, argues Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest.

One solution? Have a snack, she said.

“No matter how many calories you have at lunch, you need a snack,” said Wootan. “The answer to football players that need calories for their practice isn’t to feed every kid 1,000 calories.”

What do you think about this article? Comment below!