Ag Department Making School Lunch Changes

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Monday, December 10, 2012

School lunch changes are being made by the US Department of Agriculture. Earlier this fall, we reported Kansas school students protesting lunch program changes by bringing sack lunches instead of buying school cafeteria meals.

It’s a scene most of us have been a part of in school – lining up for the school-prepared lunch. But this year, many students are bypassing the line and instead bringing sack lunches.

"We decided to protest the school lunches, because they weren't giving us enough food," said St. Marks 8th grader Isaac Albert.

That’s the protest school nutritionists and the USDA heard through this fall semester. Eighth graders in the Renwick District’s St. Marks school say they know why the Ag department made lunch changes.

"I understand they were trying to lower the obesity rates and get us healthier, which is great," said Caroline Buchanan.

But some students, parents and administrators say they don’t like how it’s being done. So, the Kansas head of Child Nutrition and Wellness Services, Cheryl Johnson, says schools are being given some flexibility in menu planning.

The meals will still be restricted to the same calories: elementary schools to 650 calories, 700 for middle schools, and 850 for high schools.

But Johnson says it allows additional grain or meat serving if something else is eliminated, such as a less nutritious condiment, and still meeting calorie guidelines.

"I'm happy,” Albert said. “I don't know about other people but I'm happy for it."

These eighth graders think their brown bag protest forced the USDA to make these changes.

"These changes wouldn't be happening now if it weren't for us bringing our sack lunches to school," said 8th grader Cole Murray

Johnson insists the calorie amounts are definitely adequate for the students for their school day if the students actually eat all that’s served. The question is whether the change gets brown-baggers to buy school lunches again.

"I don't know. It depends on how much more they give us. I might start going back to school lunches," said 8th grader Cooper Bradbury.

Schools must offer at least one vegetable or fruit per meal. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of congress this flexibility allows more time for the development of products that fit within the news standards.

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