Friday, August 31, 2012

Peanut Butter, Play Better.

This week, I received a very interesting tip from a student in a small town Kansas high school who reads the School Lunches Suck! Blog.  He told me that there were a couple of schools in the towns down the road who were serving peanut butter sandwiches after lunch to the football players, so that they wouldn’t be as hungry during practice.  I asked him to put me in contact with a football player from one of the schools, and before long, I had a story.
    Devin is a sophomore at a small town high school in northeast Kansas, where the only important things this time of year are harvest and football.  I was intrigued by what I was hearing from others about the sandwiches these players were eating; where they were getting them, and who was paying for them. Devin did most of the talking, and had a quick answer for every question I asked him.

Me: Devin, I am writing a blog about school lunches in America, and I heard that you have some information that would make a very interesting blog post.  Your football team gets peanut butter sandwiches before practice?  Whose idea was it?

Devin: Yeah, we do get them.  It was our football coach’s idea, who is also our athletic director.  

Me: Who pays for these sandwiches? Who makes them?

Devin: Every year, the parents donate Gatorade to drink during practice and games, but this year our coach asked them to donate bread and peanut butter so we wouldn’t get hungry during practice.  You just make the sandwich yourself, in the locker room.

Me:  When did you start eating them before practice?  Are they for the players only?

Devin: Last Monday [August 20th] was when we started eating them.  Yeah, they’re only for the players.

Me: How long are they going to continue donating the bread and peanut butter? Has anyone in your school’s food service program said anything about you eating them?

Devin: I guess we’ll eat them until we don’t have anything left to make them with.  Nobody has said anything,  I’m not sure why it would matter to them.  We are allowed to bring snacks to school and eat them so it shouldn't be any different.    

Me: Alright, I have just one last question before I’m done.  Can you tell if it makes any difference on your performance in practice?

Devin: Yeah, I’m just not as hungry, and helps how I feel overall.

    I thanked Devin for his time and input.  I told him that it would probably be a couple of days before I was able to work out a post, and that I would make sure he got to see it finished.
    For most of the interview, which was conducted over the phone, Devin seemed really puzzled as to why I was so interested in ‘just peanut butter sandwiches’.  What really intrigued me, though, was the fact that it was the football coach/athletic director’s idea.  He went as far as asking the parents to donate bread and peanut butter so the players could have a snack before practice; something that had never been done before.
    One other thing also made me very curious about these sandwiches, and that is that there cannot be any competition to the school lunch program unless it meets certain USDA criteria.  From a CDC weekly report titled, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, I uncovered many of the regulations that govern school food sales. One of which was,  “Competitive foods are not subject to any federal nutrition standards unless they are sold inside the food service area during mealtimes.”  I will explain this in easier terms, as I had it explained to me.  It simply states that the only food that can be served during meal times (breakfast and lunch) in a public school must be regulated by standards set forth by the USDA.  This pretty much limits what can be sold during lunch and breakfast hours in a public school, often leaving the school lunch program the only choice.  Since the sandwiches are donated to the football team, and not sold to them, this does not fall under, “sold inside the food service area during mealtimes.,” meaning, to me, that they are doing no wrong.
    This seems like quite an extreme measure to take, just for a snack before football practice.  But after my Interview with an athlete, I soon realized that it was a great solution to what has become somewhat of a problem with the portion size of lunch at school.

---Don’t forget to share The School Lunches Suck! Blog with your friends and family on Facebook, and always feel free to leave a comment or question for me to answer!---

The link below is for the CDC’s weekly report, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interview with an athlete..

     Today, I had the chance to talk with a fellow classmate of mine, Tanner.  Tanner is a wide receiver for the Beatrice Orangemen football team, and also participates in track in the spring.  When asked about the new school lunches, Tanner had an opinion similar to many of the other players on the team.

The lunches sucked.
     I asked Tanner a couple of questions about what he eats during the day, and how practice goes after school.  "Yesterday for lunch I had a pork rib sandwich, small salad, juice box, and half a cup of fruit. About 7th period everyday I have a snack or something so I don't get hungry," Tanner told me matter-of-factly. Now, Tanner isn't the biggest guy on the team, standing at 5 foot 18 inches and 140 lbs., so for him to be hungry after lunch and a snack is quite ridiculous.  Tanner told me that practice starts at 3:45, and goes until about 6:30 in the evening.  "When I get home, I'm extremely hungry.  If dinner isn't ready when I get home, I get upset. "
     I also got the chance to ask Tanner if he plans on bringing his own lunch, like many of the football players do.  "Yeah," he said, "getting enough food at school can cost quite a bit, my brother paid like six bucks for his lunch today.  Since I bring a snack, I might as well bring my own lunch, too."  I myself have noticed many students bringing their lunch, and when I ask them about it, they all have similar replies.  What they serve us isn't enough.  So, I just pack a lunch, and bring more food. 
     Again, I visited the USDA website,, and decided to put Tanner's height, weight, and level of activity into the Daily Food Plan tool.  I received the same results as yesterday, even with a different height, weight, and level of activity.  A 140 lb, 5' 8" male with more than 60 minutes of activity a day needs 3200 calories daily.  I understand that many calories a person consumes in a day also come from their breakfast and dinner, but there are simply not enough calories in a lunch for a football player to keep energized when they practice.  With only 850 maximum calories coming from his lunch, he needs those snacks to give him energy to preform in practice.
     To me, the bottom line for many student-athletes is that they don't get enough calories from their lunch to give them energy to preform.  

---Don't forget to share The School Lunches Suck! Blog with your friends on Facebook, and leave a comment if you have a question or suggestion!!!---

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday, August 27th.

     What's for lunch on Monday, August 27th? Spaghetti with meat sauce and a bread stick.
Here is a breakdown of what I ate today.

  • Spaghetti with meat sauce
  • 1 bread stick
  • 1/2 pint white milk
  • 3 strawberries
  • 2 orange wedges
  • 3/4 cup mixed veggies
  • 5 slices pickled beets
     Total Vegetables: ~ 2 cups
     Total Fruits: ~1 cup
     Today's lunch was a common meal served in cafeterias across the country. Everyone is used to the familiar glob of noodles covered in a somewhat watery spaghetti sauce.  The noodles and the bread stick were both whole wheat, which fulfills the USDA requirement that half of all grains must be whole.  As with my meal last week, about an hour later I was hungry again.  I really started to feel bad for the football players sitting across the cafeteria from me, as they have practice after school.  I wanted to know just exactly what a person like a football player needs, so I did a little research.  
     I know that the USDA has a handy little website called, formerly known as  There, there is a tool that anyone can use, called Daily Food Plan.  The Daily Food Plan breaks down how much of a certain food group a person should eat in any given day. Here, you can select your age, height, weight, gender, and level of physical activity.  
     I decided to use a 17 year old male, weighing 210 lbs. and standing 6 feet tall., with more than 60 minutes of activity a day.  To me, this represents the average football player. The results from the Daily Food Plan were not surprising to me in the least.  
  • 3,200 calories a day
  • 10 ounces of grain a day, at least 5 ounces whole grain
  • 4 cups of vegetables a day
  • 2.5 cups of fruit
  • 3 cups of dairy
  • 7 ounces of protein
With our new school lunches, we knock out a portion of each suggested daily consumption.  
  • 850 calories
  • 2 ounces of grain
  • 1 cup of vegetables
  • 1 cup of fruit
  • 1 cup of dairy
  • 2 ounces protein
     With the limit of calories for a 9-12th grade lunch set at 850, many of those 17-year-old football players or other athletes are simply not getting enough energy from his or her lunch to preform their best at practice.  With only 26.5 percent of daily caloric intake coming from lunch, where is the energy athletes need for practice coming from?  I will interview a couple student-athletes in my school in the next coming weeks to find out.  

Here is the link to the Daily Food Plan from the USDA.
Here is the link from the USDA comparing current school lunch regulations and the previous regulations.

Until next time, stay full!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's not their fault!

     Before I really get into writing about the lunch schools now serve, I want to make one thing absolutely clear to everyone who reads the blog.

The lunches schools now offer are not the fault of those who serve and prepare the meals.  

     Cafeteria workers are very hard working people; many who truly love their job.  I have the utmost respect for the people who make and serve my meal at school, as my own grandma is a 'lunch lady'.  It was not their decision to change the food they provide, it was the government's.  The people who prepare the food I eat at school day in and day out are only doing what they are told to do.  They did not decide that as a Senior in high school I can have only 10-12 ounces of meat a week.  They did not decide that I am allowed to eat only 10-12 ounces of grain products a week during lunch.  It was the government's.  It simply is not their fault.  

     The several women who work in my school's cafeteria are some of the most caring, friendly people I know.  Everyday, I say 'hi' to them as I fill up my tray, always receiving a reply back, along with a 'how is your day going?'  Many know me by name, and one in particular even remembers my birthday.  With this blog, I only seek to show people exactly what is served for lunch in America's schools, not to put-down and complain to the food service workers in my school, all of whom I greatly appreciate.  

     Make sure to watch this week for posts on what I ate for lunch, and sometime soon a spotlight from another student at Beatrice High School - their thought on lunch!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday, August 24th.

     What's for lunch on Friday, August 24th?  Mini corn dogs, dinner roll, and french fries. (I opted for a different vegetable, though.)
Here is a breakdown of what I ate today.  I provided calorie counts for the labeled products.  The other food-I have no idea.

  • 1/2 pint 1% low-fat milk........100 calories
  • 1 can tomato juice..............30 calories
  • 3 strawberries
  • 6 mini corn dogs
  • 1 (very) small roll
  • 1 cup green vegetables
  • butter/ketchup/ranch...........120 calories
     Total Vegetables: ~ 2 cups
     Total Fruit: ~ 1/2 cup

     Many people would say, well, this is a good sized lunch.  When I sat down to eat it, I too thought the same.  However, about an hour later in my math class, my stomach was growling, even though I had just eaten.  I found it difficult to focus on class, and wondered how other students were faring.  
     Unlike some of my classmates, I do not have football or sports practice right away after school.  I thought to myself, How on earth are they going to make it through practice, on such a light meal?  I am lucky enough to be able to go home after school and have a snack, while these athletes can't, and often have practice until 5 o'clock!  Surely, they can't preform their best when they are hungry.  Where will the energy they exert in practice come from? The answer is not the lunch they ate earlier in the day.  The meal is too small for anyone on the football team, or a cross country runner who routinely runs 5 miles a day in practice!  Those athletes need the energy from their lunch to perform well, and as of right now, they are not getting it.
     Simply put, this meal is not enough to keep a person full. In order to be focused in school and at practice, students need more than this snack to give them energy they need.

Until next time, stay full!!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

About the blog...

       For many elementary, middle and high school kids all over the country, August means back to school time. This year, though, one big change has been made in schools across the country--lunchtime. In January of 2012, President Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. According to the USDA website, the . . ."USDA is making the first major changes in school meals in 15 years. . . . " With these changes, students will have quite a different experience when eating lunch. This blog I plan to do over the 2012-2013 school year will hopefully show everyone not currently eating school lunches just exactly what they are about. 
       At least once a week, I hope to upload a picture of a meal served at Beatrice High School, a meal that many students would get.  And at least twice a week, I hope to list what food I ate at school during lunch.  Every so often, I hope to interview staff, administrators, and students and post my findings. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below!