Many say the new federal lunch law stinks like rotten fruit

Many say the new federal lunch law stinks like rotten fruit

Photo: Makayla Waterman

Students at Fairmont may be required to take a fruit or vegetable, but that doesn’t mean they’re eating them.

By Dakota Miller, Staff Writer

Congress has passed many unpopular and controversial laws in the past. From the infamous Jim Crow laws that forced discrimination upon African-Americans to the more recent Stop Online Piracy Act, the American people have voiced their protests against a number of laws.

One of the newest laws sparking controversy around the nation is the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. The law, which was designed to promote better nutrition and reduce childhood obesity, officially went into effect this school year. But despite the good intentions behind the law, many are worried about its effects.

The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act requires public schools to follow new nutritional guidelines in order to receive extra federal lunch aid. It imposes many new requirements on student lunches, including mandates that at least one-half of all breads are whole grain, that white milk be low-fat and flavored milks be non-fat, and that the maximum amount of meat for a high school student per week is 12 ounces. Perhaps the most infamous rule is that students get a fruit or vegetable with every meal.

Lunches also must now adhere to a strict calorie limit – 750 to 850 calories per meal for high school and less for middle and elementary schools.

With this new legislation in play, many Fairmont students are up in arms.

One such student is sophomore John-Michael Penner. “They can enforce the new law all they want,” he said. “I’ll just keep throwing away the extras.”

Junior and Fairmont offensive lineman Jeff Duncan finds the calorie limits to be pretty rough. “These one-size-fits-all type meals just don’t work for everyone,” he said. “You can have a 5’3”, 135-pound kid on one hand and a 6’6”, 270-pound offensive lineman on the other.”

Duncan says he often needs to have a snack before he goes to football practices. “The containers for everything just aren’t right,” he said. “They really need to increase some of the proportions. I usually will eat a snack before practice – usually an apple.”

Senior Savannah Webb feels the law won’t make a difference in the long run. “The truth of the matter is forcing students to take different foods isn’t going to change the way they eat,” she said. “Students can choose whether or not to eat them. It seems like the legislation is being pushed onto under-represented students.”

One of Webb’s biggest complaints is the fruit or vegetable requirement. “Your parents aren’t forced to buy a can of green beans at Kroger, are they? Why should students have to do almost the exact same thing?”

However, not every student thinks the new law is a bad thing.

“I think it’s actually a good idea,” said Fairmont junior Cole Cavanah. “It’s better than people getting eight bags of chips and four ice cream sandwiches.”

Fairmont freshman Sam Gyenes agrees that the law is a good idea. “A lot of Americans are overweight or obese these days,” he said. “Fruits and vegetables are a lot healthier than some of the other things to get.”

Gyenes has heard many complaints from upperclassmen about the new law. “While I support the new law, I think some of these complaints are fair,” he said. “I think the cafeteria staff needs to take these into consideration instead of ignoring them.”

Fairmont’s administration supports this new mandate, but some have their own worries about the law. Kettering City Schools’ Food and Nutrition Supervisor Louise Easterly is one of them.

“My No. 1 concern is wasted food,” she said. “Many students resent this new mandate, and I’m concerned that they’re just taking one side item and throwing it away.”

Easterly is also worried about the monetary cost of the new law. Fairmont lunches have gone up by 10 cents this year, due to the rising cost of fruits and vegetables and the quantities they’re offered in. “Some of the new vegetables that we have to offer are expensive – things like cherry tomatoes, romaine lettuce or fresh spinach. On top of that, the labor costs are going to go up simply because we have to prepare so much more food.”

Although there is more variety in the lunch room, Duncan feels that it’s just not enough. “The variety just isn’t that good. I don’t really want to say that it’s bland, but it certainly seems that way.”

While Webb isn’t concerned with the monetary issues of the law, she is concerned about the availability of information about food. “Not too long ago, I was researching the nutrition information on food, since I’m a vegetarian, and found that the information wasn’t readily available. You have to ask for specifics.”

Gyenes also voiced concern for the lack of nutritional info. “I really think they need to publish the information in the cafeterias,” he said. “Without that, people don’t know how much of what they’re putting into their bodies.”

Easterly says the information is unwieldy, but she would be willing to help provide it to students. “Currently, the data and nutrition labels are stored in several large binders here in the nutrition office at the Board of Education offices,” she said. “In order to provide it to students, we’d need to know how to present it to be valuable to the students.”

Regardless of how many restrictions are placed on the lunchroom, Duncan offers one final thought. “Some kids are naturally going to eat a lot more than other students,” he said. “We need more food – the smaller portions just don’t satisfy us.”

See Dakota Miller’s opinion on the new law by clicking HERE.