Support healthier school lunches in Kansas
The Kansas City Star
Kansas teens have received national attention recently from a viral video “We are Hungry.” The video depicts lethargic student athletes struggling through their school day because of measly school meals.
The video is cute. It’s catchy. It’s impressive. As a parent and member of an advocacy organization, I congratulate those kids for using their voice to express concerns over something they believe in.
But as a parent I also want what’s best for my child and believe that is our role as adults to ensure that our kids get what they need, not what they think they need. What’s more, I don’t believe the video and related media attention necessarily reflect the opinions of all students.
My own son, who is in the 6th grade, is enjoying lunch more this school year. He even said he eats more than he did last year because of the additional servings of fruits and vegetables available.
As part of a law that passed in 2010, Kansas schools participating in the National School Lunch Program will be serving healthier meals.
What does this means for kids’ plates? Students may find steamed squash where there once were tater tots, and baked chicken nuggets with whole grain bread crumbs.
An upgrade through all kids’ eyes? Let’s be honest here: probably not. But just because a student doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t serve it or that they won’t learn to enjoy it.
I’ve heard the criticism that student-athletes aren’t getting enough food to support their active lifestyles.
As the parent of a multi-sport student-athlete that’s a very real concern in our home as well. It’s important to remember, however, that the nutrition standards are based on the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for the average child in each respective age group. For students needing more, most schools have supplementary sides and options available in the cafeteria that students can purchase.
Some even provide these free of cost. I encourage parents to talk to their school food service director, school administration and coaches on the options for student-athletes. Remember, you can always send additional food from home with your student-athlete for them to consume during lunch or before practice.
It’s also important to keep in mind the reality in Kansas. I know we all hear about obesity statistics a lot, but they cannot be ignored.
A recent report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows truly disturbing numbers for our state. We currently rank 13th in the country with 64.4 percent of Kansans obese or overweight. Unless we change our ways, we can expect to make the top 10 in another decade.
The childhood overweight and obesity rate in our state is at 31.1 percent. Fortunately, the statistics for our children are lower (but still scary) than our adult rate, but it shows just how important it is to develop healthy eating habits in school so our children transition into healthy adults and reverse our frightening statistics.
As you talk to your children about how their school day was, ask about lunch, too. Talk about why these meals are important — how strong and smart the food will make them. If they don’t like it, ask more questions and look for healthy solutions to encourage your kids to eat the new foods. As parents, we all know that change can be hard.
But as adults and the advocates for our children’s well-being, we must be the ones that ensure our kids are getting what’s best for them.
Tammy Bartels, of Tonganoxie, is president of the Kansas PTA.