(NEW YORK) — Two baked fish nuggets, a cup of vegetables, half a cup of mashed potatoes, one whole grain roll and 8 ounces of fat free milk. That’s the fuel that American high school students are federally mandated to receive in their school lunches this year as healthier food regulations take effect.
But for a grumbling crowd of students, those 750 to 850 calories aren’t cutting it.
“We hear them complaining around 1:30 or 2:00 that they are already hungry,” said Linda O’Connor, a high school English teacher at Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs, Kansas. “It’s all the students, literally all the students… you can set your watch to it.”
O’Connor teamed up with her hungry students and fellow teacher Brenda Kirkham to create a ballad to the growling stomachs that are now pestering her classroom. The YouTube song and dance video “We Are Hungry,” set to the tune of Fun’s “We Are Young,” now has more than 108,000 hits.
“Give me some seconds, I, I need to get some food today,” 16-year-old Wallace County High School football player Callahan Grund sings in the video. “My friends are at the corner store getting junk so they don’t waste away.”
Across the state at St. Mark’s Charter School in Colwich, Kansas, middle school students are protesting the new regulations, which limit their calories to between 600 and 700 per meal, by bringing their lunches from home.
St. Mark’s Principal Craig Idacavage said more than half of his 330-student school are opting for sack lunches because “they feel they are not able to get full” on the school offerings.
“I think they have a valid point and you can only hope that people will listen to them,” Idacavage said.
The new school lunch regulations, which first lady Michelle Obama championed and a Democrat-led Congress passed in 2010, set a maximum calorie limit for high school lunches at between 750 and 850 calories. Under the old rules, cafeterias served a minimum of 825 calories per lunch.
Elementary students’ lunches pack between 550 and 650 calories as opposed to the 633 calories allotted under the old rules.
For Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that “scant diet” is a “rude awakening” for schoolchildren across the country. King and Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, introduced the “No Kids Hungry Act” this month to repeal the new lunch menu standards and prohibit the calorie limits.
“Kids are of varying sizes, activity levels and metabolism rates,” King wrote in a Des Moines Register op-ed. “How can we expect each child to flourish and grow on subsistence diets? This all because some are overweight.”
But while students complain of growling stomachs, the new nutritional requirements should actually be making them feel fuller, said Kristi King, a registered pediatric dietician at Texas Children’s Hospital and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The new rules double the amount of fruit and vegetables that are served and mandate that half of all bread products are whole grain. All three of those food types are chock full of fiber, which takes longer to digest, King said.
“It should be making kids fuller if they are actually consuming the whole product,” King said. “If children are not picking the entire meal available to them they are obviously going to be hungry.”
In Jackson, Miss., the state with the highest obesity rate, school cafeterias have been easing kids into the healthy food regulations.
Mary Hill, the executive director of food services at Jackson Public School District said her school district has been phasing in more fruit and vegetable options over the past few years to prepare for the regulations and while the new rules are an “adjustment” for the students, she said she has not heard any complaints.
“To me, if you hear that grumbling it’s that typical grumbling with children,” Hill said. “You know children will be children.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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