Cutting kids’ calories- New legislation sets nutrition guidelines for schools


Michelle Obama’s new school nutrition standards are being implemented this year through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, legislation outlining guidelines for the amount of calories, sugar and fat that snacks and food sold at schools can contain. Schools that participate in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program must abide by the rules. While some changes, such as the requirement that students purchase a fruit or vegetable as part of their lunch, were implemented last year, the changes this year are more expansive, and students are taking note.

“It’s kind of like Michelle Obama is controlling our food,” junior Sam Strohkorb said. “Michelle Obama is just like, ‘We’re going to give everyone healthy food and we’re not going to give people the option. We’re going to make them choose the right choice.’”

Junior Amanda Birger noted that more whole-grain foods, such as chips, are available now, though she does not like the way in which the new regulations were implemented.

“Everything tastes bad now,” Birger said. “If they wanted to make everything healthier, they could just take away chips, not make the decent food less decent.”

Birger used to buy school lunch almost every day. Now, she says she’ll “probably never” buy lunch. This is consistent with trends across the country, as a recent Washington Times article states that more than one million students nationwide have stopped buying school lunches in response to the new policies.

The school’s student-run store, The Stampede, has also seen some major changes in terms of inventory and selling parameters as a result of the First Lady’s push for healthier meals and a healthier America.

“We can’t sell suckers anymore and we can’t sell cookies,” senior Nick Romey said. “[The] chips are [also] now veggie straws and [other healthy options]; it has really affected our profits.”

Romey and the rest of the store are currently in the process of overhauling their entire inventory to meet the regulations, a process that requires some major changes to the menu.

“We have been trying to meet healthier regulations so [instead] we are doing clementines and almonds and fruit snacks-anything healthy,” Romey said. “We just ordered some new cookies [which are whole grain] and we ordered some sugar-free suckers.”

Although the new changes have lead to decreased profits in the school store, Romey says the student-run business has been able to bounce back by changing their normal strategies.

“We have been selling a lot more shirts instead of food from [the clothing] just being in here,” Romey said.

Romey sees the reception of the regulations as negative, especially because The Stampede staff had to get rid of popular products at the store.

“A lot of students, including me are upset because everyone likes the suckers and I know a lot of people liked the cookies here,” Romey said. “Just from hearing people and tweets and stuff everything in the new lunchroom changing or stuff people don’t like with the lunches; it is just different.”

Students have noticed the changes in the school store. When asked what, if any, differences she had observed in the school store and cafeteria this year, Birger said, “They don’t sell lollipops in the school store anymore, which really upsets me because I really liked those lollipops.”

Suckers aren’t the only thing that have gone away, however. The old vending machines selling candy bars and chips have been replaced with new Helping Unite Mankind and Nutrition (H.U.M.A.N.) machines that offer healthier snack choices. So far, they’ve been getting a mixed reception.

“The vending machines don’t bother me so much because I used to spend too much money there so now I don’t,” Birger said. “And I’m glad that they have Skinny Pop in the new ones, so I’m kind of cool with it.”

Senior Ashley McLaughlin said that the new vending machines are slightly less appealing because of the snack prices.

“I mean it’s cool because they [the H.U.M.A.N. machines] have a lot of options, but it’s more expensive. I think the old ones were like 75 cents and everything in the new ones are not under $1.25 or something,” McLaughlin said.

Not every student feels the same way. Junior Hunter Handy, who is new to the Blue Valley School District this year, appreciates the cafeteria food and the vending machines.

“I haven’t seen prior to this, but I like it. It’s good food- compared to my old school at least,” Handy said.

Romey said that while the new regulations will require students to make changes, they also provide new opportunities.

“Sure [the regulations] hurt, but it also gives us way to come up with new ideas and it takes us out of the rut of just selling suckers and just selling cookies,” Romey said.


Emily Levinson and Vijay Ramasamy