Childhood hunger is a serious problem in America.
Although "most U.S. households have consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living," the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 14.9 percent (17.9 million households) were food insecure, having "difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources."
And shockingly, "children were food insecure at times during the year in 10.0 percent of households with children (3.9 million households)."
These aren't the hungry kids in Kansas we are talking about though. Linda O'Connor and Brenda Kirkham, who work in the Sharon Spring School District in Kansas, created a video with some of their students telling us about these hungry children. The video, "We Are Hungry," supposedly "makes a statement and shows that the federal government isn't meeting the standards when it comes to school lunches and kids aren't getting enough to eat."
In reality, the law they are protesting, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, actually says that school meals must reflect the latest Dietary Guidelines and the regulations are based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (an independent, nonprofit organization that provides unbiased and authoritative advice).
Are the kids in Kansas not getting enough calories? The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 does set minimum and maximum calories for breakfast and lunch based on grade level, but they are more than adequate, with kids getting:
- 550 to 650 calories at lunch if they are in kindergarten to 5th grade
- 600 to 700 calories at lunch if they are in 6th to 8th grade
- 750 to 850 calories at lunch if they are in 9th to 12th grade
Keep in mind that the average 9th grader, who is about 14-years-old, should get about 1800 to 2200 a day if they are getting 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. While it is true that kids who are more or less active will have different caloric needs, that doesn't mean that they have to get all of those calories at school. Your total daily calories should be split between a good breakfast, lunch, an after school snack, and dinner.
Still, if extremely active kids weren't getting enough calories, that would be a problem. However, I have a feeling that isn't the real issue that these kids and kids in some other schools are protesting. Just look at some of the reports:
- Greater New Bedford Vocational-Technical High School, where some students are buying chocolate syrup from friends for 50 cents a squeeze because they don't like 'unflavored' milk
- a student in Cut Bank, Montanna who went to McDonald's for a second lunch after eating in the school cafeteria after eating two slices of pizza, grapes, and milk, but skipping the vegetables and salad that he could have eaten
- at Rockford High School in Minnesota, students had a brown bag lunch protesting "Where's the Ranch?" and "We want our cookies."
So is this really about kids going hungry because they are not getting enough nutritious food to eat? Or are kids, and some teachers, having a tantrum because they are not getting the high-calorie, high-fat, and high-protein meals that they are used to? Consider that if these kids are used to having lunch at McDonalds' and eating a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, large Fries, and a large soda (1,550 calories, 67 g fat, 3 g trans fat 1,820 mg sodium), then they aren't going to feel full with what they are served at school.
Some other more important facts about Kansas, where the "We are Hungry" was filmed, include that:
- Kansas is tied with Florida for having the 14th highest rates of household food insecurity (truly hungry people)
- obesity prevalence in Kansas is 29.6%, very close to the 12 states with the highest prevalence of 30% or more (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia)
These issues should likely be more of a focus for students and teachers in Kansas with extra time to protest. They are much more important than students who don't want to eat their veggies or drink their unflavored milk.