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Host: Scott LaMar

Radio Smart Talk: Mixed feelings on new school lunches

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Dec 4, 2012 3:13 PM

Radio Smart Talk for Wednesday, December 5:

kids eating lunch 300x170.jpg

The Centers for Disease Control says about one in five children ages 6 through 11 and 18% of 12 to 19 year olds are obese.  The number of obese young people is increasing.

The CDC also says that, "Schools play a critical role in improving the dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents. Schools can create environments supportive of students’ efforts to eat healthy...by implementing policies and practices that support healthy eating."

With that in mind, the federal government implemented guidelines for this school year that are designed to make school cafeteria lunches healthier.  The menu has fewer calories, often smaller portions or not as much food, and more fruit and vegetables.

Funding for school lunches is tied to how schools comply with the guidelines.  For schools that offer a high percentage of free or reduced priced lunches to students from families with lower incomes, that money is essential.

Many students across the country aren't happy with their school lunch choices and say they're often hungry shortly after they eat.  Students at a high school in Kansas produced this video to show how hungry they are.

Wednesday's Radio Smart Talk will focus on the new regulations called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  Pam Gallagher, the Coordinator of School Nutrition Services in the North Penn School District, will appear on the program.

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Comments: 34

  • Lisa img 2012-12-05 09:22

    I applaud these changes. I recall the horror I felt when I called the school "dietician" to find out just what the fruit or vegetable was for that day's lunch because I didn't see one listed. I was informed it was the raisins in the oatmeal cookie. When I told her that was ridiculous, she agreed but said that met national guidelines. Ketchup is not a vegetable! Basically, without this change in national guidelines, some school districts like mine would not have voluntarily provided more nutrious lunches because of the cost.

    For those who don't like it, pack your lunch like my kids have been doing for the past 8 years!

    • Pamela G. img 2012-12-08 08:19

      Thank you Lisa. This is a positive step in reducing and hopefully eliminating childhood obesity and diet related illnesses.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 09:31

    Email from Listener:
    Good show, thanks. I can't help to think that we can't consider this topic in a vacuum, but have to think of the level or lack there of physical activity of the kids. And would your guest speak to the added cost of preparing fresh foods.

    • Pamela G. img 2012-12-08 08:20

      While preparing fresh foods is more costly, school districts can take advantage of better pricing by bidding and creating specifications for the items they need for their menu.

  • LisaD img 2012-12-05 09:36

    Regarding athletes - the new food guidelines might cause a problem in districts that are large geographically. At my high school, juniors and seniors are scheduled for lunch at 10:30. If they are involved in a sport and have practice or a competition after school, they might not get to eat again until 7 p.m. or later. Should the coaches or parents be providing healthy meals and snacks for the team? Also, how many students are aware that they can ask for extra fruit and vegetables at lunch?

    • Pamela G. img 2012-12-08 08:25

      Thank you Lisa for the comment. Many school districts are providing opportunities for athletes to purchase healthy snacks and even dinner meals after school to bridge the gap between early lunch and the time the students gets home. I encourage athletes to pack healthy snacks and I encourage their parents to create healthy opportunities for snacks and meals after school.

  • Lisa img 2012-12-05 09:45

    I wish your guest was nutrionist for our school. Applesauce and corn once every week? The reality is that is not what is happening in all school districts. Our fruits/vegetables this week:
    Mon - Grape tomatoes w/dip, chilled fruit (I would presume that means canned)
    Tues - tomato soup, seasoned green beans, seedless grapes
    Wed - snack bag, celery&carrot sticks, fresh apple
    Thurs - Lettuce/tomato/pickle, peas, mandarin oranges
    Fri - mexican corn, celery&carrot sticks, fruit turnover

    Not exactly the wonderful fresh things the guest is talking about. Canned fuit, canned vegetables. Having the lunch lady at the end of the lunch line be the "control" is ridiculous. There is barely enough time to get all the kids through the lunch line in the given time, let alone have that person checking and sending kids back! We as parents need to work on this at home and get our kids to the point that they want to pick the right things.

    • DaynawithaY img 2012-12-05 17:09

      Compared to what we had access to as children, that is a huge array of fruits and vegetables. Heck, as an adult with a busy schedule, I'd love to have access to that variety right now! :-)

      I think what's important to remember regarding fresh fruit and vegetables is that the growing season in southcentral PA wraps up in November and picks up again around May. So, if schools are trying to feed their students with local produce - which has better nutritional values than foods designed to be shipped long distances - they only have a few months to do so. That's why canning and other methods of preservation come into play. It really is a trade off.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 09:46

    Email from Janice:
    I have been listening this morning and have a couple of questions:

    #1- Your guest talked about the importance of vegetables and specifically mentioned (white) potatoes as a healthy choice. Diabetics are warned to be careful about the amount of potatoes because they quickly raise blood glucose, in the same way that white, processed flours do. If, indeed, schools are going to be required to serve only whole-grain items because they are healthier for children, then I wonder if your guest can explain processed-grain items are unacceptable, while white potatoes are championed as healthy vegetables.

    #2- Vegetables are only as healthy, vitamin wise, if they are overcooked. Frozen vegetables have been shown to contain more viable vitamins than canned, or even fresh vegetables, as they are frozen at the peak of freshness. Can you address this as it pertains to lunch programs?

    • DaynawithaY img 2012-12-05 17:23

      Janice, you're right on the money. The "new" dietary guidelines don't make any sense! The way to cut down on high blood sugar isn't by giving kids MORE starches and grain-based carbohydrates. I wonder how much lobbying grain marketers did to influence these guidelines.

    • Pamela G. img 2012-12-08 08:40

      Thank you Janice for your comments.
      Our goals as school nutrition specialists is to provide healthy meals that students will consume while following the federal guidelines for our program. While potatoes are high in carbohydrates, they provide students with essential vitamins and minerals. For example, potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, B-6, Thiamin, Folate and Potassium. Whole grains on the other hand provide a much different array of vitamins and minerals, such as Iron, Fiber and other B-Vitiamins. School Nutrition Specialists often work with families and our school health professionals to provide appropriate meals for students with diabetes; this would certainly address any blood glucose levels.
      You are correct, frozen vegetables retain vitamins and minerals much better than canned vegetables. Further, cooking methods also aid in preserving the nutritional value of vegetables. School nutrition specialist share this concern and provide training to their staff. In fact, the School Nutrition Association provides a great deal of training material on the subject. Their Healthy Edge program is centered on "how to" create healthy meals in schools.

    • Pamela G. img 2012-12-09 11:59

      Thank you Janice for your comments.
      Our goals as school nutrition specialists is to provide healthy meals that students will consume while following the federal guidelines for our program. While potatoes are high in carbohydrates, they provide students with essential vitamins and minerals. For example, potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, B-6, Thiamin, Folate and Potassium. Whole grains on the other hand provide a much different array of vitamins and minerals, such as Iron, Fiber and other B-Vitiamins. School Nutrition Specialists often work with families and our school health professionals to provide appropriate meals for students with diabetes; this would certainly address any blood glucose levels.
      You are correct, frozen vegetables retain vitamins and minerals much better than canned vegetables. Further, cooking methods also aid in preserving the nutritional value of vegetables. School nutrition specialist share this concern and provide training to their staff. In fact, the School Nutrition Association provides a great deal of training material on the subject. Their Healthy Edge program is centered on "how to" create healthy meals in schools.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 09:54

    Email from Jeremy:

    Has there been any discussion regarding foods processed or otherwise that have been genetically modified? Particularly those foods that have been modified by adding estrogen to increase the output of the end product. Primarily I think of the meats that schools purchase, the pink slime is in my recent memory. Or are the financial constraints far too great to be so picky with your purchases?

    • Pamela G. img 2012-12-09 12:09

      Thank you Jeremy for your comment and question.
      USDA has said that LFTB is present in some of the ground beef purchased for schools in 2011 through the USDA Foods program, which provides approximately 20 percent of the food served in the National School Lunch Program. On March 15, 2012, USDA announced that in school year 2012-2013 they will offer new LFTB-free ground beef options for schools through the USDA Foods program. School Nutrition Association welcomes these new choices.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 09:56

    Email from Listener:
    In your guest's defense, if you look in the famous "Joy of Cooking" cookbook, the same recipe in 1976 says it feeds six, in todays edition it says it feeds four. That's the same recipe with the same ingredients.

    • DaynawithaY img 2012-12-05 17:31

      Ah, but Listener, in those days, it was common to have other items on the table to round out the meal, such as bread and butter, aspics, relishes, etc. Nowadays, it seems that we're lucky if we can get the main dish prepared and a frozen vegetable heated on the side.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 09:58

    Email from RR:
    I have a child in the Shippensburg Middle School. Every day I ask "What did you have for lunch"? The response: Pizza. I see a problem with the alternate or ala cart choices. What's the point of having healthy lunches if unhealthy choices are just right over in the next line? Oh, and there's always ice cream to round out the meal.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 10:00

    Facebook Comment from Laura:
    I would like nutritional information for the days meals to be displayed for students, and available to parents. Even if they don't always choose the healthiest options, it will help them learn about the healthy options. The schools must have that information, so what would be the barriers to doing this?

    • Pamela G. img 2012-12-09 12:10

      Thank you Jeremy for your comment and question.
      USDA has said that LFTB is present in some of the ground beef purchased for schools in 2011 through the USDA Foods program, which provides approximately 20 percent of the food served in the National School Lunch Program. On March 15, 2012, USDA announced that in school year 2012-2013 they will offer new LFTB-free ground beef options for schools through the USDA Foods program. School Nutrition Association welcomes these new choices.

    • Pamela G. img 2012-12-09 12:15

      Many school district post the nutritional information of their menus on their websites. Smaller districts have challenges due to the lack of the software necessary to produce a nutritional analysis. In the very near future, the Pennsylvania Department of Education will have the ability to support school nutrition programs with more detailed nutritional analysis of their menus. This positive change will allow school districts to provide parents with the necessary information to make informed healthy choices.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 10:01

    Facebook Comment from Tammi:
    My child comes home very hungry after school. I understand that the guidelines call for fewer calories and smaller portions - which is healthier. But are we meeting a growing child's nutritional requirements?

    • DaynawithaY img 2012-12-05 17:20

      That's what I wonder, too, Tammi. I don't see how smaller portions will make children hunger-free. Instead, the act is making children - many of whom already come to school with empty stomach - hungrier.

      There are a number of problems with the new lunches, some of which include the following:

      - Kids are growing. Fats and proteins are necessary for healthy growth. Children's bodies were not designed to run solely on carbohydrates. Additionally, carbs are digested quickly, so children feel hungrier sooner than if they had eaten fats and proteins. The Weston A. Price Foundation (http://www.westonaprice.org) has more information about this.

      - Children tend to put on weight before a growth spurt. Trying to prevent the weight gain has a negative impact on their growth.

      - If children qualify for free and reduced lunches, it may be a safe bet that they are not getting adequate nutrition at home, so if schools are dedicated to preventing hunger, why don't they provide MORE nutritious food, not less?

      - Fat children may be malnourished because they do not have access to fat and protein. Reducing the amount of fat and protein they get at school does not contribute to reversing the malnutrition.

    • Pamela G. img 2012-12-09 12:20

      While the calorie requirements are lower, the nutrients are higher. For example, there is an increase in fresh fruits and vegetables offered, as well as more whole grains. These are both lower calorie, more nutrient dense foods. This will benefit all children. School Nutrition Specialists encourage students to choice all the items offered at lunch including fresh fruits/vegetables, whole grains, and milk. If the student choices all the items offered, their meal is complete with protein, grains, fruit, vegetable and milk.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 10:02

    Facebook Comment from Michael:
    I love the new lunches. My kid is a foodie and eats all that good stuff. However, we don't buy more than we did last year and still prefer to pack.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 10:02

    Facebook Comment from Nicki:
    I agree with more fruits and veggies, but not starving the poor kids by giving them little portions. Give them bigger sized portions of the healthy foods, and do some lessons on quitting at your plate when you're full. Not going to hurt that much if a kid eats an extra apple or serving of greens if they're hungry.

    • DaynawithaY img 2012-12-05 17:28

      Nicki - If only wiser heads like yours would have prevailed with these new guidelines! The Feeding Doctor, Katja Rowell, has dedicated her practice to helping parents and children learn appropriate feeding behaviors. One of those behaviors is recognizing your body's cues and listening to them, which means that if you're hungry, you can eat more, but if you're satisfied, you can stop eating. If you're interested in learning more, you can find her on Facebook or you can start with the blog on her website. Here's an article related to this morning's topic: http://thefeedingdoctor.com/told-you-so-part-ii-new-school-lunch-rules-not-enough-food/

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 10:02

    Facebook Comment from Meredith: I hear food waste has skyrocketed due to kids throwing away the veggies they were required to buy. Seems like the new requirements have admirable intentions, but unintended consequences. Maybe we need new menu items that incorporate veggies into food kids will eat?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 10:03

    Facebook Comment from Lisa:
    I was a teacher at the same rural district from 1980 until I retired two years ago. When I started, there were ten people working in the high school cafeteria, preparing almost everything from scratch. Over time, to save money, staff was cut and they had to rely more and more on processed foods. About eight years ago, a large food service took over and the staff was cut to about five workers who could only warm and assemble the lunches. Now they're expected to serve a different portion size to the middle school students and high school students in the same building!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2012-12-05 10:05

    To contact Pam Gallagher directly email her at gallagp@npenn.org

  • DaynawithaY img 2012-12-05 17:38

    Meredith, I wonder if giving children the option of those extra fruits/veggies would make a difference? As in, giving them the option to try the foods, not forcing the children to take food they do not want? I mentioned Dr. Katja Rowell in my reply posted above. I think you'd find her books interesting in regard to children's eating competence. Ellyn Satter has also written guidelines for establishing healthy relationships with food and how to feed children from little on up, accessed here: http://www.ellynsatter.com/how-to-feed-i-24.html

  • DaynawithaY img 2012-12-05 17:46

    The authors of the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 should have consulted Ellyn Satter before they started. This is a brilliant piece of work and should be implemented in all schools. http://www.ellynsatter.com/resources/SFDMSCHOOLS2012.pdf

  • kaydensgrand img 2012-12-05 20:32

    As a lunch lady myself, I feel sorry for the children of today. Chicken nuggets and pizza is the staple of the average family. Our school serves chicken at least 2x a week only in different forms. It saddens me to see the food wasted in our schools. The only thing we do differently is that if the child refuses to take 3 out of the 5 components of the meal, we charge them ala carte prices but then we aren't getting the money for it as a reimburseable meal. Seems like a no win situation!

    • Pamela G. img 2012-12-09 12:35

      What a wonderful dialog, thank you so much for your support and concern of school lunch. There is so much literature on the subject and I thank the listeners for blogging. The following links also provide additional information on the new regulations and the impact on our students:

      http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Heathierschoolday/default.htm
      http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Heathierschoolday/pdf/School_Meals_summary.pdf

      This debate is not over. USDA and school nutrition professionals are continue to do what is best for our school students. It is extremely important for parents to learn about the options available in their schools and to support healthy choices by encouraging students to try the variety of fruits and vegetables offered at school. Further, the new guidelines are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and are designed to provide students with all the nutrition they need to succeed at school.

      Thank you again for listening. For more information, contact the School Nutrition Specialist in your school district. You can also contact the School Nutrition Association of Pennsylvania at www.snapa.org for additional information.

  • andi img 2014-12-08 03:35

    obesity has not been a monopoly adults and what the federal government is a right decision

    http://infocrystalx.com/

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