We, the hungry people

Nationwide, students are complaining about their now-healthier school lunches.

by Hemang Sharma

Public schools throughout the nation are having a tough time dealing with students who are unhappy about their lunches, courtesy of new Department of Agriculture regulations. Going into effect this academic year, the regulations essentially make subsidized lunches healthier, smaller and worth a few extra cents.

New Jersey, Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania and many other states’ kids have staged protests, created angry Facebook groups, made petitions, uploaded viral YouTube videos and even got their parents involved. Lawmakers are now aware that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 imposes changes that kids don’t like.

What has these teenagers dumping plate-fulls of food straight into trash bins, taking pictures of it and then writing songs like “We are Hungry?” Well, it is the compliance of cafeterias with USDA regulations, thus restricting quantities of nachos, French fries, potato wedges and garlic bread and replacing typical pizza with whole wheat, 2 percent chocolate milk with skim milk. It also tosses larger quantities of steamed broccoli and other vegetables onto their trays.

I’ll admit, getting kids to eat healthy isn’t an easy task. First lady Michelle Obama’s intentions through the new laws are noble. She wants the nation’s kids to eat healthy and remain healthy. With obesity on the verge of becoming a national epidemic — now affecting 17 percent of kids and 34 percent of adults — healthier options during school lunch is an imperative.

Of course teenagers would prefer getting more melted cheese on the nachos instead of baby carrots and peas. Kids who used to pay $2.50 for their portions are now being charged just incrementally more, $2.60.

What bothers me is the amount of media coverage this is getting. Officials should be firm in their decision — healthier foods are better for children, whether they want their veggies or not. If parents are unhappy about federally subsidized lunches, they should pack lunches for their kids or move them to a school that caters to their interests, literally.