Students in the Warren County School System say they’re going hungry.
The problem results from limited calories that are being included in school lunches as ordered by a new federal mandate aimed at fighting obesity.
School Board members were made aware of the problem in a recent presentation by the WCHS Student Advisory Council. The students called the new lunch size “kindergarten portions” and complained to the School Board that between the smaller lunch sizes and shorter lunch periods at the high school, many are skipping the midday meal.
The lunch period was shortened from an hour to 50 minutes to accommodate a seventh class for high school students.
In the student advisory report, the committee criticized several things.
“Students do not like the kindergarten portions and there is not enough time to stand in line and get your food at lunch,” the council said.
The council also expressed concern that, for some students, meals at school are the only substantial food they have all day. For this reason calories can be very important, and the restriction on calories could be, in essence, starving those students and sending them home hungry.
While not addressing the food line issue, School Board members revealed their hands are tied when it comes to portions. Under a federal mandate, there is an 850-calorie maximum per plate and that is if every part of the lunch is eaten.
“It is 700 to 850 calories maximum for an entire meal,” said Director of Schools Bobby Cox. “This is even for a student who is going to be there until 6 p.m. and playing football.”
Board member Bill Zechman said the federal government has a stranglehold on the purse strings, making the local school system obey the directive which was aimed at reducing childhood obesity.
“We are reimbursed through federal dollars,” Zechman said, noting the county stands to lose 6 cents per plate in federal funding if they thumb their noses at the federal lunch requirement. “There has been a lot of backlash nationwide over this and there is a chance this will be reconsidered and the policy changed on the national level.”
While not agreeing with the maximum calorie directive, the School Board agreed there is nothing it can do at this point to change the situation since it would mean a major loss in federal dollars. Cox did say, however, he wanted to find out if students can purchase an extra lunch if they wish. If not, the board may look into ways extra lunches can become available to students who want to purchase them.