This change smells funny

Recently it was announced (with much fanfare, I might add), that changes were being made to the new school lunch guidelines. Now, for anyone who knows me at all, or has read more than a handful of my posts, you know that I’m not a big fan of the changes. I’ll let you read for yourself as to why.

Empty trays and empty bellies...but don't worry, the garbage cans have been full!

Empty trays and empty bellies…but don’t worry, the garbage cans have been full!

So when I read about these new changes, I was excited that we were making headway, that the USDA was starting to see reason and our children were no longer going to be used as diet guinea pigs and be paraded around as some science experiment. I think I celebrated a little to early.

First of all, let me reiterate that I am not unhappy with ALL of the new school lunch guidelines. I love the idea of new menus, trying different things and encouraging fresh fruits and vegetables. I really, really do.

Yet, I have major issues with limiting calories for growing bodies, mandating that every school charge for seconds and limiting the amounts of proteins and grains that can be served.

The changes came in the order of a letter from Sec. Vilsack, announcing that for the remainder of the school year, limits on protein and grains would be lifted. Yay! Right???

Not so fast.

The problem truly lies within the limits on calories, which is not lifted. And the release of grains and proteins is only temporary, to allow schools time to adjust their menus and find vendors that can supply these new meal requirements.

On the heels of this “announcement” of change, comes an article from the New York Times. It states that “After decades of rising childhood obesity rates, several American cities are reporting their first declines.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Except when you read the article, you notice a few problems.

For instance, the fall in obesity in children in New York City was recorded from 2007 to 2011. Wait a minute…our kids were getting healthier before school lunch was changed? The decline in Los Angeles was from 2005 to 2010. And the decline was contributed to things like giving healthy tips during school, not putting the students on a nation-wide diet.

Yet my twitter feed is full of agencies and groups claiming that the new guidelines are already showing improvements, taking credit for the drop in a rate that was already dropping all on its own…without calorie caps and protein limits.

So why am I leery about the changes? Because if you read the actual announcement, you’ll quickly learn that it’s very temporary…and it’ll be very hard to implement. Yes, a school can ignore the limits on protein and grains for the rest of the school year, but they cannot ignore the calorie cap.

School lunch release

It’s kind of like giving a kid an allowance of $5 per day, instructing them that if they want to keep getting their allowance every week, they can only spend $25 for the whole week (we’re working within a school week here). But, for a limited time, they can buy all they want…as long as they don’t spend more than $25 per week.

Doesn’t matter how it’s worded, the child is still stuck spending only $25, unless they want to give up their allowance for the next week.

Try again, USDA…you can do better.