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Food wars…and politics

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The following is a guest post submitted by Harold DeMonaco, MS, one of our story reviewers on HealthNewsReview.org.  The opinions are his.

US Representative Steve King (R) of Iowa has introduced a bill (No Hungry Kids Act, H.R. 6418) that would effectively repeal recent US Department of Agriculture guidelines for maximum calories contained in school lunches.  King defended the bill saying:

“For the first time in history, the USDA has set a calorie limit on school lunches. The goal of the school lunch program was — and is — to insure students receive enough nutrition to be healthy and to learn.  The misguided nanny state, as advanced by Michelle Obama’s ‘Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act,’ was interpreted by Secretary [Tom] Vilsack to be a directive that, because some kids are overweight, he would put every child on a diet. Parents know that their kids deserve all of the healthy and nutritious food they want.”

The USDA guidelines put a cap on the calories contained in school lunches based on the age of the child and are consistent with recommendations from the Mayo Clinic and others. One of the major changes is the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables into the servings. According to the Des Moines Register, middle and high school students were served a minimum of 785 calories at lunch in 2011-12. The new guidelines limit the average lunch calorie count for students in grades six through eight to 700 calories.  Those 85 calories a day doesn’t sound like much but it can add up.  One additional pound of body weight requires about 3500 calories, so the average kid will gain about 5 extra pounds in a school year if the guidelines were not in place. According to the Register, 39% of school age children are overweight or obese in Iowa.

According to the The Hill, Mr. King’s challenger for the new Fourth District’s seat is non other than Christie Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture’s wife.

 

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