In the quest to curb obesity in children, New York City began slimming down its school lunch menus a few years ago, but according to the New York Times, they may have cut too many calories.
City officials now acknowledge that school lunches served today often do not meet the minimum calories required by the federal government, effectively ignoring a set of United States Department of Agriculture requirements written in 1994.
City health and education officials said their aim was not to lower calories, but rather to increase the nutritional value of the foods they did serve. According to the Times, in replacing pork bacon with turkey bacon, officials cut 64 calories from one serving, but often did not replace the calories lost.
“Our mentality is to feed food to children, not nutrients to astronauts,” said Eric S. Goldstein, the chief executive for school support services for the New York City Education Department.
The city is already ahead of new federal guidelines, which take effect this school year and lower the minimum calorie counts for school lunches by more than 200 calories in some grades. The federal rules still require more calories for older students, says the Times.
These new federal guidelines almost put in jeopardy . The problem was that city education officials believed that too many separate menus could not all be held accountable under federal rules for student nutrition.
School districts must follow Agriculture Department guidelines more than $400 million a year in New York City. According to the Times, it is unlikely that the city will be penalized for past calories shortages.
Joel Berg, the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, sees another side to the issue, wherein the city may be cutting calories on a child’s one square meal per day, says the Times.
Berg says the policies are “based on the city’s absurd belief that hunger no longer exists among children, despite federal data that proves that one in four New York City children live in food-insecure homes.”
“The city’s one and only response to child hunger is taking food away from kids.”