Some Kansas public school students say low-calorie, high-nutrition school lunches inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama leave them hungry.
Wallace County High School students made their case in a four-minute video that attracted widespread attention Sept. 21, after it was posted on YouTube. Titled "We Are Hungry," the video blasts the school lunch guidelines mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
“Give me some seconds, I need to get some food today. My friends are at the corner store getting junk so they don’t waste away,” said 16-year-old Callahan Grund, a high school football player and a star of the video.
“Tonight, we are hungry. Set the policy on fire…,” the song later continues.
The law, which mandates lunch menus with a 650-calorie limit for elementary school students, 700 for middle-schoolers and 850 for high-school students, is designed to avert childhood obesity by encouraging children to eat fruits and vegetables and fewer fatty foods.
But according to the students those calorie levels are not enough for active, growing teens.
The video opens with a stat from KidsHealth.org which states that active children require between 2,000-5,000 calories daily to meet energy and growth needs. KidsHealth.org is funded by Nemours, a non-profit arm of the E.I. DuPont Corporation.
Set to the tune of “We Are Young,” the video also depicts students fainting and collapsing in the gym and the classroom, stuffing lockers with junk food and staring listlessly at the food on their cafeteria trays.
“Now think of a high school boy who works out at least three hours a day, not including farm work,” said Brenda Kirkham, an employee at the high school where the video was filmed. "I'm furious," she told the Wichita Eagle.
Kirkham earlier had posted a photo of her school lunch on Facebook, igniting outraged comments and spurring Linda O’Connor, an English teacher at Wallace, to pen “We Are Hungry.”
Cheryl Johnson, director of child nutrition and wellness for the Kansas Department of Education, told the Eagle that while there are “pockets of protest”, “for the most part, we feel the new guidelines and menus are being well-received.”
The Eagle reported similar protests have surfaced in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania with students bringing bag lunches to school instead of partaking of the cafeteria fare.
And Republican lawmakers, many of whom have decried the law—which was the first major overhaul of school nutrition in 15 years—say it takes away choice and encourages waste.
Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kans.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) have introduced a bill that would repeal the Department of Agriculture national school lunch guidelines.
The “No Hungry Kids Act” would protect children from “extreme calorie rationing” and would, according to the GOP lawmakers, give parents back the right to oversee their child’s wellbeing.
"The goal of the school lunch program was – and is – to ensure students receive enough nutrition to be healthy and to learn. The misguided nanny state, as advanced by Michelle Obama's ‘Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act,’ was interpreted by [Agriculture] Secretary Vilsack to be a directive that, because some kids are overweight, he would put every child on a diet. Parents know that their kids deserve all of the healthy and nutritious food they want."