Despite widespread criticisms of Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, it appears there is one group enjoying the First Lady’s school lunch program. That group would be farm animals.
In one New Mexico school district, a local ranch has begun using thrown away school lunch food to feed their pigs, chicken, and goats. They receive an astonishing 5 tons of edible garbage a week! That means students in that district are wasting 5 tons or more of food each week.
“It’s really whatever they don’t eat coming off of their trays, so when they get up to the trash cans they will scrape it into one of our buckets that we pick up on a daily basis,” the ranch’s CEO Max Wade told KRQE.
And Rio Rancho, New Mexico isn’t alone. In Canton, New York, school officials estimate that kids throw away 85% of their fruits and vegetables. “I’ve watched kids take their cup of vegetables or fruit they’re required to take and just throw it away,” Canton Central School Food Service Director Ella Mae Fenlong told a local paper.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, thrown away school lunches are used for compost on a worm farm.
While the animals of the Galloping Grace Youth Ranch and the worms of Lincoln, Nebraska may be enjoying the benefits of the Michelle Obama’s lunch program, something is wrong if that much food is ending up in the garbage. In addition to wasting taxpayer money when free and subsidized lunches get tossed in the trash, the program fails in its primary task to have kids be “hunger-free.” If kids aren’t eating it, the nutrition standards don’t matter.
In February, the School Nutrition Association, a professional organization representing around 55,000 school food service employees from around the country, blasted federal nutrition guidelines for lunches and called on Congress to make drastic changes to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
“USDA data shows that since the new rules were implemented, 1.4 million fewer children choose school lunch each day,” SNA reported in their 2015 Position Paper. They called on lawmakers to “simplify regulations and provide flexibility to maximize efficiency and ease administrative burdens.”
With 1.4 million fewer students choosing to eat school lunches and those that do throwing much of theirs in the garbage, it is fair to say that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a complete failure.
Students have been in revolt against the program on social media. Pictures of paltry portions of undesirable looking food have found their way into the media along with complaints of students and parents. Based on these pictures, it is hard to blame them. Much of it looks barely fit for pigs.