The Outdated School Diet

Lindsey Farthing, Photo Editor

Have you ever wondered why it is required to put an apple on your plate in order for your meal to be considered “complete?” This is one of many outcomes from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act came into effect in 2010. This signed act was all started as a result of former first lady Michelle Obama’s initiative. The concept behind it was to make kids more aware of nutrition, and to ultimately lower obesity rates in children and adults, according to Michelle Obama. This act should no longer be in effect today.

In 2010, when the act was signed into effect, 16.9 percent of children in America were considered obese, according to the CDC. Since the act was signed in 2010 by president Barack Obama, data has not improved. In 2020, 19.3 percent of children in America were considered obese, according to the CDC. The act not only failed at lowering childhood obesity rates, but ended up doing the opposite: more children in our country are overweight since the act was introduced. 

These statistics do not baffle me. Since the act was signed, as a student who buys lunch at school nearly every day, I can also confidently say the food is not as good as it used to be. 

When I was in kindergarten and first grade, I loved school lunch. I always looked forward to the new meals the lunchroom served. However, as I have gotten older, the food in the cafeteria has gone downhill, and I blame The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  

Obama’s act ensures school foods are free from any form of added sugars and fats, are whole-grain and encourages portion control to prevent overeating. These implementations have resulted in the foods being healthier, but at the definite cost of taste. 

Since I am limited on tasteful food options, I find myself relying on the daily grease-dripping pizza or chocolate chip cookies from the snack rack which are clearly not healthy options. 

From a young age, the foods offered at school have subconsciously taught kids that the unhealthier options will taste better than the healthier ones. Obviously I do not want kids to be served unhealthy foods. However, there is an issue when the current “healthy” foods being served are resulting in kids having to choose the unhealthier options. 

Obama’s plan encourages healthier diets in younger people, so they learn while young and, in the long run, become healthy adults, according to Michelle Obama. Since the act was signed, times have changed. We have learned in the past few years that this is not an effective way to get people to eat healthier. 

Many nutritionists are now recommending a new technique called intuitive eating, according to the National Library of Medicine. Intuitive eating encourages people to eat what they want, and what they think their body needs. Furthermore, studies by the National Library of Medicine have shown that this newer style of eating may actually be better for weight management.

When most foods offered at schools are low-sodium or whole-grain, eating by method of intuitive eating is a difficult task. 

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act also encourages schools to only offer skim (fat-free) milk. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, however, whole milk may actually be better for managing weight. The CDC also states whole milk and the fats it provides are better for children in aiding with healthy growth and development. Given that the whole point of the act was to lower child obesity, this recent research displays that it might be time for a change.

Times have changed since 2010. Rather than telling kids that they need to eat fat-free, low-sodium or whole-grain foods, I believe we should simply be encouraging and informing kids to make their own healthy decisions. It is important that kids are managing what they eat. However, they should be eating healthy because they want to be, not because they have to. 

These unappealing meals are not the fault of our school, district or even state. In fact, this issue is still impacting many schools in our nation today, according to Blue Valley District Dietitian, Mary Rondon. There needs to be a lineup of both healthy and tasty meals offered in school lunchrooms across our nation. Michelle Obama’s decade-old diet strategy is simply not going to cut it anymore.