HealthZette

Reading, Writing — and Kale Drinks

Another 'win' for Mrs. Obama's nutrition dictatorship

Think of your typical high school lunchroom table. Maybe paper straw wrappers whizzing through the air, puddles of ketchup on plastic plates, and the delicious, ubiquitous tater tot come to mind.

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One thing that would not spring to mind is kids sitting around drinking kale.

But kale smoothies are coming to Atlanta high schools this week. And if all goes according to plan, the kale movement will spill down to Atlanta middle schools as well.

You can just hear the kids celebrating: “Yes! Oh, man, we are finally getting kale!”

Related: Is Organic Food Worth It?

Kale is the current darling of the vegetable world. Low-calorie and nutrient-dense, kale is what broccoli was in the 1970s and ’80s — the go-to veggie that adds color to your plate and vitamins to your bloodstream. The most common is Scots kale, which has green, slightly curled leaves and a hard, fibrous stem.

Kale is the current darling of the vegetable world. But is kale — or any other hard-core peddling of veggies — the right move in the nation’s schools?

But one has to wonder if kale — or any other hard-core peddling of veggies — is the right move in the nation’s schools. First Lady Michelle Obama’s healthy lunch initiative, The Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act, may have looked good on paper but was no hit with the actual people it was designed for — schoolkids.

The Government Accountability Office released an audit of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act nutrition standards last year, and reported that 48 out of 50 states faced challenges complying with the act, according to the Washington Times.

Under this well-intentioned but ultimately restrictive act, the federal government dictated both portions and choices in U.S. school cafeterias. Lunch offerings were forced to include fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. There was also a calorie limit: 850 for high school kids, 700 for middle school, and 650 for elementary school.

Related: Obsessing over Junior’s Diet

“I have a high school son who plays three sports and that would not be enough calories to keep him healthy — period,” one Texas mom told LifeZette. “The government does not know my son’s caloric needs, just as they don’t know my son.”

Kids were soon chucking their fruits and vegetables in the trash can.

In Kentucky, one official bluntly reported that students thought the healthy fare “tasted like vomit,” according to CBSnews.com.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, reported that kids weren’t eating the vegetables and low-fat choices, and were too hungry to learn, according to CBS. Additionally, costs soared due to all the uneaten food.

The Washington Free Beacon said of the budgetary hits, “Since the introduction of the National School Lunch Program in 2012, 1.2 million students have dropped out of (it). Those who remain continue to throw away food, resulting in $1 billion in food waste.”

The National School Lunch Program ended up losing participation once the healthy — but horrible — standards went into effect during the 2012-2013 school year. A total of 1.2 million students stopped buying school lunch according to the GAO report. Before the new program, school lunch had increased steadily for the prior 10 years.

And this, from the School Nutrition Association:

  • In an effort to combat student plate waste, Alexandria Public Schools in Virginia switched from serving whole apples to sliced apples. The change cost the meal program $10,000 per year.
  • One Connecticut school district with an enrollment of 9,800 students and 17 percent free or reduced-price meal eligibility is losing money for the first time in decades. Last month, the program operated at a $98,000 loss, down from a surplus of $198,000 in 2011.
  • Spring, Texas, Independent School District’s annual produce bill has increased $290,400 since last year. At the same time, their annual paid-lunch participation declined by 14,672 meals.

In a program feature eerily reminiscent of Oliver Twist’s pitiful orphans’ refrain of “Please, sir, can I have some more,” one of the elements of the Atlanta district’s “More Please” campaign is allowing students to take a second trip through cafeteria salad bars — for free.

“If a child wants more salad they can come back at no cost,”Marilyn Hughes, Atlanta’s nutrition services director, told the Atlanta Constitution-Journal.

Apparently it would take a child with the skills of the Artful Dodger to score a few french fries from the lunch lady’s line-up were he hungry and cash-poor.

Related: A Crop of Nonsense

Four 16-year-old boys in the Boston area were asked their opinion of kale smoothies. Here are their answers, verbatim:

  • “What is a kale smoothie? You mean, like, a broccoli milkshake?”
  • “I would starve and eat real food when I got home.”
  • “I would try it. I’ll try anything. Especially if they added like a yogurt or fruit or sugar to make it edible.”
  • “Kale? No. Just no.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the new kale smoothies have gotten through monthly student taste tests “with flying colors,” and perhaps there’s an obvious reason why:

When you’re hungry, you’ll eat anything.