“We're Still Hungry!” Student Lunches Leave Stomachs Rumbling

A YouTube video created by Kansas students echoes concerns heard in Los Angeles over new dietary guidelines that slash the calorie count of school lunches.

New federal regulations limiting calories in school lunches have some students claiming they go home hungry.

The culinary change inspired a group of students to create a video about it, which has garnered more than 390,000 views and counting. Collapsing at practice and crawling on the floor in exhaustion are actions depicted in a parody based on the song "We Are Young" by the band Fun.

"We are Hungry" was created by students and two teachers at a high school in Kansas in response to the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act passed by Congress in 2010, which limits calories to 850 for high school students, 750 for middle school children and 650 for elementary students.

There is also a Facebook page, Nutrition Nannies, now dedicated to growing frustrations.

The meal requirements implemented this school year call for more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and sodium. They are part of a new bill championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Two congressmen have now introduced another bill, "No Kids Hungry Act", that would repeal the calorie restrictions.

"The rest of the nation is now seeing a lot of the impact," said David Binkle, the director of food services for LAUSD. Last year, Binkle’s district adjusted its menu to include more nutritious foods.

"More than 72 percent of our produce line last year came from within 200 miles of downtown Los Angeles," Binkle said.

The menu switch came with criticism. Binkle admits the district has had to make changes based on parents and student taste tastings like this one: jambalaya and Asian Pad Thai are now off the table while others made the cut.

"Chicken fajita with brown rice are very popular. [So is] Teriyaki chicken," Binkle said.

According to the district, complaints have lessened this year. LAUSD serves 650,000 meals a day and has begun serving in-classroom breakfasts at 278 schools and has after-school supper programs in more than 500 schools.

Fifth graders Clemente Torres and Zack Hinkle say the lunches at school are actually quite tasty but the boys are often left wanting more.

"Sometimes they give you one little piece of chicken...sometimes it's not enough," Hinkle said.

When asked if they felt hungry after lunch:

"No, not most of the time. After lunch we just go and play," the boys responded.

Even so, mother Genesis Torres says there are complaints. She has opted to, at times, send Clemente to school with a bagged lunch. For her however, healthier options are better than the alternative.

"Overall, I think it's better that they don't give them too much. They give them smaller portions, which is good," Torres said.

Binkle insists adapting to change will take time. He cites kids’ initial opposition to yogurt when it was introduced in school lunches. Now, many don't think twice about eating it.

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