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Issues with dietary guidelines in schools

August 15, 2012
Marshall Independent

To the editor:

Thanks to our first lady Michelle Obama and the USDA your kids may be coming home from school this year extremely hungry.

The current administration seems to think it is the public schools' responsibility to curtail and prevent childhood obesity. What they don't realize is lunch at school amounts to only 25 percent of their food intake for the entire week and that is only nine months a year. On second thought I think they do realize that and they are just trying to seize more and more control of our daily lives.

The new guidelines that all public schools are to follow starting this year not only limits the amount of calories kids can take in but also tells schools which food must go on which section of their tray. Grades K-5 can have 550-650 calories per lunch, 6-8 600-700 calories and 9-12 750-850 calories. As you can see there is only a 200 calorie difference between a lunch for a kindergartner and a senior in high school. This also makes it especially problematic in our middle school where we have kids in 5th through 8th grade. Do you think a growing high school athlete that is practicing twice a day will be full on an 850-calorie lunch? On top of that they are limiting the amount of meat/protein each group can have. Grades 9-12 can have a maximum of 2 oz. of meat/protein per day.

Just imagine how big a 2 oz. hamburger will be? If you add cheese you have to take away calories from some other portion of their meal. Just think of the athletes who have two-a-days at the beginning of the year and are also in marching band, some will be at school from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Do you think an 850-calorie lunch will be enough? I know these students made a choice to be in these activities and they should be prepared for their long day at school, I just want to be sure everyone knows what is going on with their lunches.

I have a feeling there will be a lot of ala carte items purchased, and more and more kids will start bringing their lunch to school. This will put an extra burden on the parents who have to pay for the extra items. For many years the largest portion of the lunch tray was filled with what we think of as the main entre, which is usually some kind of meat/protein source. Now the largest portion of the tray will be filled with a vegetable and the meat/protein will be in the smallest section. Protein is what all growing kids need for muscle development and strength, especially during and after puberty.

I know fruits and vegetables are important, but they are forcing us to feed certain colors of vegetables and most kids won't even eat them. Mrs. Obama and the USDA thinks that a plate full of squash and other similar colored vegetables will really appeal to young people and they will just eat them up and ask for more. I don't think that will be the case. As the Taher representative told the school board Monday night, I'm afraid we will be filling dumpsters and not tummies. I am concerned that when kids get home at 3:30 p.m. they will just gorge themselves on anything they can find because they didn't get enough at school.

This is just one of the many unintended consequences that always happen when liberals in Washington try to control or prevent something that is the parent's and the individual's responsibility. The schools' responsibility is to teach kids to read, write, learn critical thinking skills and many other academic subjects and along with their parent's become responsible citizens. We do offer health and PE classes to help them learn that it is important to stay fit and eat right but controlling or limiting 25 percent of their diet will not prevent childhood obesity. Another unintended consequence is because of some government formula we have to raise the price of our lunches 10 cents across the board which means the parents will be paying more and the kids will probably be throwing more away.

This just doesn't make sense to me.

Taher Foods has worked very hard to reformulate their recipes and change their menus to comply with these new guidelines and I know they will continue to monitor reactions by kids and parents. As a board member I am very concerned about how the kids are going to react to these new menus. If you see any drastic change in your child's appetite or are seeing more ala carte items being purchased please contact me or better yet contact your U.S. Representative or Senator and voice your concerns. I would like to know how the kids and parents are reacting to these mandated dietary guidelines. You can contact me at

Please do not contact Taher Foods or your school as they are just following these federally mandated guidelines. Also, note the above opinions are strictly mine and may or may not reflect the opinions of the entire Marshall Board of Education.

Matt Coleman




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