This fall, you may catch yourself asking “Where’s the beef?” at least in Fairfax, Va. schools. Yes, just like the little old lady in the 1980’s Wendy’s commercials, the real beef is missing in Fairfax schools as they switch to their previous 26 ingredient patties.
After last year’s implementation of higher nutritional guidelines by the National School Lunch Program, Real Food For Kids (RFKK), a Fairfax advocacy group, convinced the school system to use 100% beef patties, reports The Washington Times. However, according to The Washington Post, after a number of complaints by students about the real beef patties’ taste and aesthetics, the school system decided to switch back to the less healthy option this fall.
Fairfax is not the only school system to retract the healthier lunch menus required by the National School Lunch Program. The Associated Press reports that the Agriculture Department has confirmed 524 schools out of 100,000 have pulled out of the program this year. The schools that have pulled out of the program will not receive federal reimbursement for meals given to low-income students. In spite of this, many schools that have dropped out did so in response to economic pressures. The New York Daily News reports some districts like Burnt Hills Ballston Lake System have lost upwards of $100,000 due to the changes in the meal requirements. These economic situations reinforce the current issue of healthy foods being too expensive and junk food being cheap.
Another concern of the new lunch menus has been the calorie restrictions. The Huffington Post reports that not only do the students have a hard time adjusting to the taste of healthier menu options, but the portion sizes are not satisfying. This is especially true with athletes, who have resorted to filling up on junk food after school and before practice. Essentially, the low calorie counts of the new menus are driving students to junk food outside of the school cafeteria.
Although the majority of the schools in the program have adjusted well so far, there are a small percentage of schools that have reverted back to less healthy school lunch menus. Many of these districts have done so in response to students’ complaints. Can we accept that our students just do not enjoy healthier food options or is there a bigger problem at hand?
The article How the Food Industry Manipulates Children into Eating Junk Food takes a look at advertising and marketing and how it has bombarded our students from a young age to crave junk food. This “predatory marketing” is even in our schools, convincing our students to go for candy over fresh fruit. It’s part biological and psychological but is an issue that needs to be addressed. The question is if students were not inundated with such advertising, would these schools be reverting back to junk food? And would implementing healthier standards in public schools be easier if students were not already hardwired for sugar? Would we even need healthier standards if we addressed junk food advertising?
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