First Lady Michelle Obama’s new federal school lunch guidelines, put in place to encourage healthy eating at public schools, haven’t been met with much enthusiasm at Pioneer or at many public schools across the country.
The First Lady has been the target of many Twitter jokes in the form of sarcastic tweets pertaining to school lunches under the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama. The tweets are often accompanied by images of less than desirable looking school lunches of mushy mystery meat, or of dry whole grain breads with unpleasantly appearing fruits.
This backlash stems from a change in foods available at public schools as part of the program started four years ago by Mrs. Obama called “Let’s Move!” The program was started with one clear, yet challenging, goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up to be healthy.
Because students consume half of their daily calories at school, it is important that they have, and make, healthy choices. Mrs. Obama has emphasized the importance of creating healthy eating habits beginning at a young age in order for students to continue on a path of healthy living.
The “Let’s Move!” campaign is based on harrowing evidence of food consumption and lifestyle choices of this generation. This is the first generation where kids have a serious risk of death because of the food they are eating.
However, Mrs. Obama’s initiative is struggling to appeal to students. Complaints about the new rules often regard the taste, texture, or portion sizes of the “healthier” foods. Pioneer senior Patrick Wagoner says he thinks the overall quality of school lunches have dropped. “I feel like there are fewer choices and [they] are much less appetizing,” says Wagoner.
Public schools either had to implement the new law or face a cut to their federal school lunch funding. For many schools, especially low-income ones, the obvious choice was to enforce the new policy. However, many schools have been hurt by this and have switched back to providing their students the previous, unhealthy food, arguing that they were losing money under the new rules.
For Ann Arbor Public Schools, the new law has not had much of an effect on the budget as it has for other schools. Chartwells Food Services, which is in partnership with Ann Arbor Public Schools, encourages healthy eating for kids by giving them nutritious options. “Chartwells has implemented the new regulations over the past three years,” says Heather Holland, director of Dining Services and Chartwells Dining Services for Ann Arbor Public Schools. “It has not had an effect on the food service’s revenue.”
The only thing the law has affected is what items the schools can sell on their a la carte menu. “The items must meet the ‘Smart Snacks’ guidelines,” says Holland. “Smart Snacks” encourages students to make healthier snack choices.
While the law may not be affecting the schools as much, for students at Pioneer, the change hasn’t been welcomed by some students.
Before this year, the school store sold sugary snacks that students would buy by the dozens. The popular items that used to grace the store at Pioneer included an array of candy, ice cream, cookies, and chips. The ice-cream and candy now are gone, and the large cookies have been replaced with smaller, “healthier” ones.
“I am upset because I used to buy candy during lunch in previous years,” says senior Jack Tamer. “I miss the Skittles the most.”
Having food that looks appetizing to students is the key factor in making a large profit. Those junk food snacks are now gone and the school has replaced them with options that aren’t as popular with the students such as granola bars, nuts, and baked chips.
“The law should be changed because schools need all the extra money they can get,” says Tamer.
Overall, the change hasn’t had a negative effect on Ann Arbor Public Schools, but at Pioneer, some students say it has put a dent in how much food they buy from the snack store, so it may affect the bottom line eventually.
While Mrs. Obama’s rules may come with good intentions, many students say they miss their previous sugary snacks.