We aren’t actually hungry

Student Callahan Grun stars in a YouTube video satirizing the new rules. Image from YouTube screen shot.

By Natalie Serafini, Opinions Editor

A recent parody video titled “We Are Hungry” was released, satirizing Michelle Obama’s push to discourage childhood obesity. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 limits high school lunches to a maximum of 850 calories and encourages fruits and vegetables rather than fatty foods.

Well, the kids of America aren’t having it!

The video was filmed at Wallace County High School in Kansas, and features the falsettos of hungry-hungry-teens lamenting the lack of food on their plates to the tune of “We Are Young.” Brenda Kirkham, an employee at the school, supports them, stating “Think of a high school boy who works out at least three hours a day, not including farm work.”

Kirkham is right that such a person might need more calories than what is provided in the school lunches. Conversely though, if teens were working out three hours a day, obesity probably wouldn’t be the rampant problem that it is.

All the same, 850 calories in one meal is nothing to sneeze at. Besides which, this is simply the maximum number of calories the school lunches can provide. If students have to supplement this, I’m sure they’re allowed to brown bag some extra food. If they refuse to eat the school lunches all together, no one’s stopping students from packing their own.

The video stews in its own ridiculousness. It’s supposed to be funny, so the images of relatively privileged teenagers falling down out of starvation isn’t meant to be a serious comment on their health. Still, Kirkham’s statement that her students “[are] starving” was probably meant to be taken seriously. I find it difficult to sympathize with teenagers who are getting 850 calories from one meal, while there are kids who wouldn’t get that many calories in a day. Wallace County high schoolers, I’m sure your pain is strong, but there are children dying from actual starvation.

So why are these kids so angry?

A study from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center was recently released, revealing that “scans of children show the pleasure and appetite centres of their brains light up when they are shown advertising images such as the McDonald’s logo. … It suggests fast-food firms are tapping into the reward areas of the brain, and that these develop before the regions that provide self-control, leading to unhealthy choices.”

I suspect the students’ outrage stems from junk food withdrawal. “We Are Hungry” depicts students trekking off campus to fill up on Slurpees, ice cream, and massive bags of Tostitos to avoid the dreaded school lunches. Hate to break it to you kids, but those unhealthy foods will do nothing to keep you full because they provide so little nutrition.

Adding to the ludicrousness of these starvation claims are the statements made by Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp who, along with Iowa Rep. Steve King, has introduced a bill to repeal the calorie maximums of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Huelskamp addresses the requirement that students take a serving of fruit or vegetable at lunch, regardless of whether they plan to eat it. He states, “If every member of Congress would actually go into a school cafeteria and take a look at the trash can, they’d see that what sounds good on paper doesn’t always work out like you think.” So the kids are starving, but they’re so disgusted by the thought of eating fruits and vegetables that they’re willing to waste food and go hungry—seems to corroborate my argument that these kids are just missing their junk food.

If the students were arguing that it’s not the government’s place to dictate the number of calories consumed in a meal, I would probably be inclined to agree with them. When they go straight to, “Oh woe is me, I have to eat an apple at lunch,” my sympathy evaporates. These kids are getting healthy lunches that will hopefully discourage childhood obesity. It may not be the government’s place to dictate calorie counts, but it’s the school’s place to educate these young students on healthy eating habits.