To the Editor:
As a registered dietitian and a mother of school age children, I know first-hand about the importance of proper nutrition. I would like to discuss a few of Steve King's misconceptions about school lunch.
King mentions in a recent article that "because some kids are overweight, the USDA has put all kids on a government diet."
Fact: 12.5 million children aged 2-19 are obese. Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled. Half of Americans may be obese by the year 2030, unless we change our eating habits. The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are staggering: in 2008, these costs totaled about $147 billion, according to the CDC.
King wrote, "A ration of only 2 ounces of meat per day is an unfriendly food environment for everyone." I'm assuming he is concerned about protein, which is found in other foods besides meat: fish, milk, eggs, yogurt, beans and grains. The Journal of the American Medical Association recommends 36 grams for a 100-pound child, and most American's have no problem getting this amount.
What King doesn't mention, is that fruit and vegetable servings have increased. Kids K-8 will receive 2.5 cups/week of fruits and 3.75 cups/week of vegetables. Kids 9-12 get a whopping 5 cups /week of fruit, and 5 cups of vegetables per week. I would be surprised if anyone could argue the benefits of this.
My child needs approximately 1,800 calories per day to meet estimated growth and activity needs. Therefore, the calories provided at school lunch of 600-700 calories would be appropriate. A larger child may need 2,000 calories per day, and this would still be acceptable.
Teaching kids appropriate serving sizes and which foods are nutrient dense (have more nutrients per calorie), will help our children to learn how healthy foods fuel their bodies.
The school lunch's updated nutritional standards are based on recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine, which is an independent non-profit organization that works outside the government.