School lunches primary topic for Ag Issues FFA team
Last updated 4/19/2018 at Noon
The Lind-Ritzville Ag Issues team presented five separate public presentations in preparation for their competition at the Washington State FFA Convention in Pullman on May 10-12.
The Ag Issues team selected school lunches as their topic and focused on the government guidelines for school lunches, as well as how those restrictions are implemented at the local schools.
The Ag Issues team members are Lacey Miller, Morgan Brausen, Ashlynn Norton, Conrad Ziemer and Brooke Koch. The team competed at the District Convention at the end of March, and their first place finish qualified them for the state contest.
The team each plays a different role, acting as parents, cooks or students during the presentation to present different arguments in regards to school lunches.
The federal guidelines establish the rules for schools across the nation, and each member of the team discussed the positives and negatives of the program, as well as potential solutions.
Brausen discussed the pattern of students consuming lunches, as well as the nutritional value of the lunches provided. He explained in a lot of cases, students want to eat, but are not interested in eating at school because of the types of foods provided, primarily fruits and vegetables.
As part of his role in the presentation, Brausen asked how school lunches can be improved to help more students want to eat the foods provided to them.
Ziemer agreed, stating there should be an improvement, establishing as the obesity epidemic continues to grow. Students need to have access to healthy foods that provide energy.
Miller said nationwide, over 30 million children rely on free or reduced lunches as their primary source of food during the school day.
Locally, and in schools across the nation, Farm to School programs have begun, Koch explained. This program teaches students how to grow their own nutritional foods and then help prepare them for consumption at the school.
The team continued to discuss the positive impact of these programs, as it helps improve engagement with the students and also helps them want to eat the foods they have produced.
There are grants available to help offset the cost of the program, including funds through the United States Department of Agriculture, Koch stated
The students also discussed the negative impacts of processed foods. While the foods are easy and quick to prepare, they typically lack the nutritional value that students require to help them function throughout the day.
Since the implementation of processed foods, Miller said there has been a 40 percent increase in child obesity. It also leads to a lifestyle of poor eating habits, she added.
Under the Healthy Kids Act, all students are supposed to receive a quality meal through the schools, and children deserve access to the best foods, the group explained.
Currently, lunches in Ritzville are based on 650 calories for lunch and middle school lunches are 700 calories, Miller stated. Sodium levels continue to be high, but no foods are supposed to contain trans-fats.
Miller continued to explain there is a direct correlation between student performance and consumption of food. Intake relates to outtake, she said, but children are lacking the foods they require to perform well.
The group explained that a change in the lunch foods can improve academic performance, as well as reduce students from a future of heart disease or high blood pressure. The students explained it helps mental health as well, but allowing students to thrive off of positive nutrition.
The team said the government has the overall say in regards to school lunch nutrition, and President Donald Trump is in support of the new system regulations. Koch explained this includes cutting whole grain intake in half, reducing the salt level to zero and serving one percent milk.
The students explained Michelle Obama’s plan focused on student nutrition and helped students learn about healthy foods. While the regulations will continue to change, the guidelines need to be focused on creating a balanced diet for students, and meals they are interested in eating.