In 2010, Michelle Obama championed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in an effort to fight childhood obesity and make school lunches healthier. Unfortunately, schools are not used to making food that meets the criteria established by the Act and kids are not used to eating those types of foods. The result has mostly been that some kids are left hungry, only eating the minimal amount of junk food that is served and avoiding the healthier options. While calorie counts in the meals haven’t been significantly reduced and schools are still throwing away food, more kids are complaining of being hungry now than before the Act was passed.
More Waste and Less Participation
Many schools report a large and growing discontent with the results of the Act. A large number of students have stopped participating in free or reduced lunch programs, opting instead to bring a bagged lunch or select from cold options available in the cafeteria. The children that are participating are receiving the mandatory fruit and vegetable that comes with the meal, but a large majority of students are throwing them away instead of eating them, resulting in millions of dollars of waste. When children fail to participate or simply throw the healthy options away, the program fails in its ability to help reshape eating habits.
Solving the Problem
There is no simple fix to the school lunch problem, but the steps that have been taken were not wrong, simply unsuccessfully implemented. To combat the issue, it will take a combination of parents helping to educate children about nutrition, children being more open to healthier foods, and schools going the extra mile to make healthy food that is attractive and tasty. Schools in the United States may be able to learn something from attempting to replicate better-rounded school lunch options served in other countries, rather than trying to go back to unhealthy options.