In wake of government regulations, hungry teens demand more food

DONNIE BRYANT?donnie.bryant@empiretribune
Holiday Harris, a junior at Stephenville High School, paid cafeteria server Janet Lasater for lunch Thursday. DONNIE BRYANT/E-T

It's no secret teenagers consider rebellion a rite of passage - every adult can recall an issue their own high school angst prompted an impromptu sit-in or walk-out.

Now young people have the power of social media, and a group of clever teenagers - with some help from a couple of teachers - have created a video parody of the song “We Are Young” to protest frustrations over new federal guidelines for school provided breakfasts and lunches.

The video is called “We Are Hungry,” and it is a humorous lampoon of the new requirements limiting the amount of calories a student is allowed to have served to them in a school prepared meal.

Old standards for lunch allotted a daily minimum of 825 calories to be offered to seventh through 12th graders; the updated standards apportion the meal a minimum of 750 calories and a maximum of 850 with the bulk of them coming from fruits and vegetables.

But as any parent of a teenager can attest, young adults are capable of consuming a vast amount of food. Is the calorie restriction initiative going too far?

According to "A Guide to Eating for Sports," active teens require between 2,000-5,000 calories a day to meet energy and growth needs. (

“It's true football players and other athletes will need additional calories,” Stephenville ISD's Director of Child Nutrition Mona Little said. “But the district is doing everything it is supposed to do, and we are following the guidelines. I'm certain there was extensive research put into this. And we are going to back it up.”

At the core of the controversy are new government nutrition standards put into effect in August in a bid to combat childhood obesity, requiring schools to serve more variety and larger portions of fruits and vegetables. In addition to calorie restrictions, there are limits on the amounts of grains and proteins that can be served over the course of a week.

Little admits children are not cookie cutter entities with the same nutritional needs, but steps to address those differences have been taken.

“It depends on the individual child,” she said. “But we have other food items available. Students can buy Core Powermilk, which adds calories. There are granola bars, breakfast bars, fruit juices, vitamin water. Everything is within the guidelines available.”

And the guidelines have doubled the amount of the more healthy foods now being served. According to Little, the amounts of fruits and vegetables offered have increased from ½ cup to a full one.

The more nutrient dense foods that are now being served in theory should be more filling than food items served in the past. In addition to the fruits and vegetables, the guidelines mandate that half of all bread products available are whole grain. All three of those food types are full of fiber, which takes longer to digest.

“Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are all rich in fiber, which are filling,” Texas Health Harris Methodist Stephenville's registered dietician Ellen Wells said. “These foods provide bulk and volume, which makes you feel fuller. And their fiber and fluids help you to feel fuller for a longer period of time.”

But try telling that to kids across the nation whose loudly grumbling stomachs are matched only by their verbal grumbles.

Which brings back to mind the “We Are Hungry” video and the nearly 500,000 hits it has gotten on YouTube. It is apparent kids feel they are being slighted by schools' compliance with new regulations. But as with all change, there are going to be growing pains.

“It's the right thing,” Little said. “It may seem like we are pushing kids to eat these foods. But they need to get familiar with them. It's just going to take time.”