They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But high school students in several U.S. states are complaining that they aren’t even getting a filling lunch as schools introduce new dietary guidelines aimed at combatting obesity among young Americans.
“My friends are at the corner store getting junk so they don’t waste away,” crooned one student in a parody video produced by a group of students and teachers from a school in Kansas in complaint over their new lunch regime.
The video has been viewed more than 250,000 times in the past week alone. Students at schools in several other states have also voiced their discontent at the new school lunch program that went into effect at the start of the current school year.
In Wisconsin last week, local media reported that 70 percent of the students who usually buy lunch organized a boycott.
"A lot of us are starting to get hungry even before the practice begins," Nick Blohm, a student athlete who practices sports after school, told reporters. "Our metabolisms are all sped up."
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was signed by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010. First Lady Michelle Obama has been one of the biggest advocates of the policy.
Under the act, there are calorie limits applied to meals based on students’ ages. The new guidelines also limit the amount of protein offered, and call for more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in an effort to reduce obesity and diabetes.
Students aren’t the only ones protesting the changes; Obama’s political opponents have also jumped on the lunch-wagon.
Steve King, a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, started a Facebook page urging families to speak out against the new lunches.
"The USDA is now rationing food to our kids. Our growing kids need all of the healthy and nutritious food that they can eat," King said in a statement last week.
But supporters of the school lunch reform say the new nutrition standards are now bringing school lunches into line with the same dietary guidelines used by the rest of the country.
“As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat and ensure that they have a reasonable, balanced diet,” Mrs. Obama said in a statement released soon after the legislation went into effect.
“And when we are putting in all that effort the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria.”