False Meme of the Skimpy School Lunch

October 24, 2014

False Meme of the Skimpy School Lunch

By Mark Bishop, VP of Policy, Healthy Schools Campaign

There is a theme in conservative news and blogs going around right now that goes something like this:

American kids are starving on school lunches” or “School lunches can’t be one-size-fits-all!

But the latest meme are photos of skimpy school lunches that kids are sharing on social media, and sarcastically thanking Michelle Obama for it. But the media seems to be leaving out some key facts. So let’s unpack a bit.

FOX:  Lunch meat, a couple of crackers, a slice of cheese and two pieces of cauliflower qualified as lunch on Monday in Chickasha Public Schools.

As far as facts go, this is true. However, they left off the other fact that this is a high school where students are allowed to select what to take from the lunch line – and skip what they don’t want. It’s called Offer vs. Serve – where students can turn down parts of the meal as long as the school is offering them. The menu on this given day also included milk, baked beans and pears, not to mention that students are allowed to take multiple servings of veggies and fruit. Now, it’s fair to ask if this meal is healthy or appealing to students, but to only look at a few limited items and say it’s not enough — that’s simply misleading.

EAGnews.org: The regulations are one-size-fits-all.

Not true. The reality is that schools have different calorie counts between in grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, with greater calorie counts for each progressing age group. Of course, there are some students who are competitive athletes or others who may need more calories than your average kid. Schools and families can help these students with a la carte foods, after-school snack programs or bringing extra food from home. Remember, lunch — whether for kids or adults — should be only around 30% of one’s daily diet. The current calorie ranges are to help schools provide lunches that are one part of an overall healthy diet.

As far as spin goes, this one is pretty clear. School lunches are a work in progress, and schools across the country are striving for — and in most cases achieving — extraordinary results. With the current state of obesity in our country, providing healthy school food is something we all need to support and yes, we need to continue to improve. But simply telling misleading stories isn’t going to put better food on kids’ lunch trays.