McPherson County students are hungry this year.
McPherson County students are hungry this year. Some students have started bringing their own sack lunch. Others are spending more money to supplement what they think are insufficient portions. Athletes are stashing snacks to eat before practice so they have energy. Students have been in school two months since new national regulations were enacted. The growing kids, especially older students, say they are unhappy with the content on their plate and how much of it is served. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is the first major school food nutritional overhaul in more than 15 years. It mandates schools serve a minimum amount of fruits and vegetables, a maximum amount of sodium and trans fats and restricts calorie counts depending on age. It is intended to combat child obesity and hunger, but just as a popular YouTube video launched by a Kansas school states, they have said, “We are hungry.” During National School Lunch Week, local students and families have given input. Smaller portions Canton-Galva Middle School athletes have noticed there is less food on their plates. “I like the food, it would just be better if it would be bigger portions,” eighth-grader Kelli Nightingale, student council vice president, said. Nightingale and most of her fellow teammates have begun to bring snacks to eat before they begin practice. “They say they don’t get enough,” eighth-grader and student council president Lexi Howard said of her volleyball playing peers. “If they forget something to eat, they’ll ask others for a bite.” This is happening on area football teams, as well. Dana Byers, Smoky Valley Middle School Booster Club president, has children in the middle school and high school. When her high school son comes home from practice, she said he tends to overeat because he had a smaller meal at lunch. “That’s what I hear from my kids and most kids, is that it’s not enough,” she said. Students at McPherson Middle School also have noticed a change from last year. Eighth-grader and student council president Dylan Baldwin said he eats breakfast to get him through the day, something he hadn't done until this year. Seventh-grader Thomas Diggs said he frequently buys additional food to become full. This amounts to about twice the amount of a normal school lunch every day. Seventh-grader Mandi Cooks said she and her siblings have begun bringing their own lunch this year, and agreed she has seen a significant amount of others doing the same. Lori Frazer, parent of a Moundridge High School sophomore, said some days her son receives enough food, and other days he asks for money to get food from the vending machine. She said he has never complained before about an inadequate amount of food at school. Food content Portions aside, students have varying opinions on what is served. “Some of the food hasn’t been as good as in the past,” Hunter Pearson, Canton-Galva eighth-grader and student council representative, said, noting a decrease in seasoning. “As long as you put in a little bit in (seasoning), it’s not going to kill anybody. I think the food is healthier, and I kind of like that. But sometimes it needs a cookie to give us more sweets and energy.” Somer Bagby, Lincoln Elementary School PTO president, said the increased options at school have resulted in less time to eat. She said the fruits and vegetables available on the serve bar are healthy, but there isn’t enough protein to keep a student’s stomachs from grumbling at the end of the day. Her daughter has begun bringing her own sack lunch because she was eating the school’s chicken nuggets every day. Students at McPherson Middle School said there were meals they used to look forward to — such as chili and cinnamon rolls — that are now changed or eliminated. As always, many running for student leadership positions were campaigning about school meals and salt content was on the list. Austin Eldredge, McPherson eighth-grader and student council vice president, said depending on the day, some students will choose to be hungry rather than eating the required fruits and vegetables. Satisfactory meals Some students and families do not mind the changes, however. “I haven’t really heard any complains,” McPherson High School junior Hannah Kasting said. “I think the portions are about the same. I think it’s better than in the past.” Inman Elementary School PTO president Kasey Noggle said she hasn’t heard any grumblings, even when she and her husband have visited the school during the lunch hour. “I think the kids are getting full,” she said. “The kids are happy with lunches. It still seems to be a real positive experience.” McPherson sixth- graders Treybon McLeod and Kyler Chapman said they think they get enough to eat and like what ends up on their plate. Cody Seiler, Inman High School senior and STUCO president, said there are mixed feelings among students. “There are kids that are fine with it and probably wouldn't notice the difference, and there’s a lot that have noticed,” he said. Satisfied or not, schools must continue to meet the national regulations. More than 90 percent of U.S. elementary and secondary school students are enrolled in schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program, according to the School Nutrition Association. This totals about 32 million meals served a day.