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School lunch protest video: “We are Hungry” parodies new menus (+video)

School lunch calorie limits leave bitter taste with some Kansas students: "We are Hungry" video is a protest of new federal menu guidelines.

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“Now think of a high school boy who works out at least three hours a day, not including farm work. … I’m furious. The ‘cheese’ inside the breadstick is approximately three bites. This is ridiculous.”

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In past weeks, students in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and St. Mark’s school near Colwich, Kan., have organized brown-bag protests, packing their own lunches instead of buying school meals.

Huelskamp and Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, have introduced a bill that would repeal the calorie maximums imposed by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which won congressional approval in 2010.

Huelskamp said the new lunch guidelines are “a perfect example of what is wrong with government: misguided inputs, tremendous waste and unaccomplished goals.”

He also opposes rules that require students to take servings of a fruit or vegetable at lunch, regardless of whether they plan to eat it.

“If every member of Congress would actually go into a school cafeteria and take a look at the trash can, they’d see that what sounds good on paper doesn’t always work out like you think,” Huelskamp said.

Vicki Hoffman, director of nutrition services for Wichita schools, said reaction to the new lunches so far has been mostly positive.

Wichita schools cut down on waste by setting up “share tables,” where students can leave items such as bananas, oranges or packaged foods they don’t want.

“There’s still some waste, but not as bad as we might have expected,” she said. “We’re also seeing kids eat things they might not have eaten before.”

Johnson, the state official, said claims that school lunches don’t provide enough food to keep high school athletes energized through practice are unfair and misguided.

“It’s one meal. It is designed to meet the nutrient needs of an average student of that age group, but it’s never going to meet the needs of students who burn far more calories,” Johnson said.

“We need to encourage breakfasts at home or at school. We need to encourage students to take all of the items at lunch and then to plan for after-school activities by packing a healthy snack.”

School districts that once financed bigger lunches could continue to offer extra food and comply with the calorie restrictions by establishing an afternoon snack program, Johnson said.

Parents of athletes and other active children should make sure they have a healthy snack between school and practice, Johnson said.

“The guidelines don’t say this is the only food a student should have all day,” she said. “We know from research that it is much better to have six small meals and snacks during the day as opposed to a lot of food at one time.”

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Sam Eckels, a sophomore at Northeast Magnet High School in Wichita, said his school lunch portions — one recent day it was steak fingers, mashed potatoes with gravy, peas and applesauce — are adequate. But he packs fruit snacks and a sports drink to keep him going through after-school basketball conditioning at East High.

“The lunches are pretty good,” he said last week. “I don’t see any difference from last year.”

Kirkham, the Sharon Springs teacher, said she has started letting students eat snacks during her afternoon classes, even in art.

“I have quite a few football guys come in here, and I’m like, ‘Hurry up and eat so it doesn’t get on your project,’?” she said. “I mean, they’re starving.

“This isn’t about some spoiled kids who want too much food.”

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