National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

The Drudge Report headlined the updated school lunch guidelines this morning, and not in a good way. "Complaints mount against Michelle Obama's new lunch menu" is trumpeted to the millions who pull up the Drudge Report, who also see the headlines for a funny music video parody "We are hungry" and other links, including, "This doesn't cut it and "Wasted food."

The popular news site is read by 34 million every day, so the heat on school lunches is being turned up in a big way. Of course, it is not exactly fair to call the new school lunches the exclusive doing of the first lady. After all, the USDA's updated nutrition standards are mandated by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 and follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the recommendations of the Institutes of Medicine.

This video from Omaha speaks of kids who want to donate wasted food from school lunch trays to food banks.

Recent coverage in The Packer acknowledged pushback to the standards but USDA officials seem to be holding firm. From the coverage:

While saying there is give and take in the implementation of the standards, Merrigan said in a teleconference Sept. 14 that the nutrition standards will serve kids well.

“I know there is a little pushback on that, but we have done our homework and these are good standards,” she said during a Sept. 14 teleconference.”We are going in the right direction.” Merrigan announced more than $5 million in federal grants Sept. 14 to support schools in 18 states and one territory implement the behavior-focused strategies for nutrition education.

In an interview with AgriTalk Sept. 18, Huelskamp said that he has heard specific complaints about the calorie limits for football players.

“Certainly obesity is a problem, but it is not a problem to be solved in Washington but a problem that should be solved by parents,” he said.

Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Janey Thornton said the menus are based on the Dietary Guidance for Americans. “No they don’t have the triple burger or the huge portions that we as a society that have come to think as the norm,” she said. “What we are trying to do is not to teach children just what to eat, but portion sizes,” she said.

The problem of obesity is linked both to the kind of foods kids eat and the volume they consume, she said.

However, she said the calorie limits have been a challenge at some schools. While football players who practice after school may need more calories than the school lunch can give, Thornton said not everyone at school is a middle linebacker.

School boosters and others can help provide healthy snacks football players need so they will have the calories they need for practice, she said.



TK: It is open season on school lunches, particularly the newly imposed calorie limits but also the expansion of the mandatory fruit and vegetable servings. Whether this dust-up actually threatens the standards or is short-lived,  politically-inspired griping about the Obama "nanny state" remains to be seen.

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