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Food guidelines 'counterproductive'

Joe Graves

New federal nutrition guidelines for the National School Lunch program are becoming "counterproductive," in the fight against teen obesity, Mitchell Superintendent of Schools Joe Graves said on Friday.

"The program is creating real problems," Graves said. "It isn't permitting enough calories for our high school students, especially for those students who spend a long day at school participating in sports or other activities."

The new guidelines reduce available protein in meals and require more helpings of fresh greens fruits and vegetables. The program also reduces fat and sodium intake.

That's not what kids want.

As a result, said Graves, some students are decreasing their participation in the lunch program and are finding other, sometimes unhealthy, ways to get the extra calories they crave.

"It's too draconian an approach, its counterproductive; and it's negatively impacting our ability to run our lunch program," Graves said.

Graves said prior to the start of the new food guidelines this fall, the school district's food program was doing a good job introducing kids to more healthy food choices.

That good work could be going out the window as hungry kids are increasingly choosing to brown bag their lunches, to buy them elsewhere or binge on junk food to get their desired extra calories.

Plate waste is growing as kids reject stuff they don't like. "The rejected food can't be given to someone else," Graves said, "so it must be thrown out."

Graves called the menu guidelines an example of negative federal tampering with local programs.