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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Calorie-Capped School Lunches: Helping or Hurting Students? (Part I)

Been on vacation for the last week. You'll have to excuse me if this article sounds like it's written by Charlie Sheen. Thanks to the FTM braintrust for stepping up.

Tiger blood. 

Fort Thomas Independent Schools are unique. They are constantly progressing, pushing the bar higher and higher academically, athletically and providing students with the knowledge and know-how to become successful cogs in society more frequently than most schools not just regionally, but nation-wide.

I think that's probably one of the reasons why they are afforded the privilege of going off campus for lunch. It's a tradition that goes back to when my dad graduated from HHS in the 70s and earlier. Of course, they were allowed to get in their cars, going 60 MPH down Memorial Pkwy into Newport to try to get back before their 30 minutes passed. But a tradition passed down, nonetheless.

In the early 2000s, we had a few off-campus options: Inverness (with Greasy Dave), Subway, Ameristop, the bakery. Now, they have more: Mio's, Twisty Grill, 915. 

Even with the off-campus lunches, the HHS cafeteria kept me and my crew's business the majority of the time. Chili Fiesta Sticks, Chicken Ala King, Nuggets, the potato bar, Slush Puppies, Malts with those bad-ass cookies and hot pretzels were amazing and provided more than enough energy to keep us going throughout the school day and into the early evening, when the majority of us had extra curricular activities. 

I talked about a YouTube video (top of the article) a few weeks back that went viral, which chronicled another high school student body's plight about the disdain for the new healthy lunch and calorie-capped federal guidelines, which cap calories at 850 calories. According to the website,, active teens require a diet of 2000-5000 calories a day to meet "energy and growth needs."

Basically the gist was that the lunches did not have enough calories to keep them full throughout the day. By the end of the day, they weren't able to focus. Add those students which had activities after school, and the new federally-mandated lunch guidelines just weren't cutting it. 

One has to assume that students nationwide are struggling with this same issue. With the off-campus lunches still an option at Highlands, you have to assume the cafeteria is struggling with this more than anyone. 

I talked with Gina Sawma, the Food and Nutrition Director at Fort Thomas Independent Schools, about the new healthy guidelines. Her degree is in clinical nutrition and food service management. She worked in the health care industry for 23 years before switching to schools. She's been in the school/food business for 6 years, 4 of which have been at FTIS. 

Part II of this article will be run Monday and will talk about how she views the guidelines, what's different with the cafeteria over the last 5-10 years and how students have taken to the changes. 

What are your thoughts?


  1. Living within earshot and eyesight of both the jr high and sr. high I can attest that many, many of the students are not going to restaurants and taking advantage of the "healthy" choices. They are going to the marathon station and carryout in the center of town to purchase sugary drinks, candy bars and other high caloric, low nutrition snacks. I know this because I see them daily walking around during their lunch time and I pick up the garbage they leave behind that blows through our yards. Of course they are tired at the end of school. Who wouldn't be?

  2. I find the cap too "one size fits all". Everyone has a different metabolism rate. Athletes definately need more calories as they are burning more and at a faster rate. I notice my kids are eating more at home. Maybe this is more a matter of saving money than healthy eating.

  3. 850 calories worth of Chili Fiesta Sticks, Chicken Ala King, Nuggets, the potato bar, Slush Puppies, Malts with those bad-ass cookies and hot pretzels wouldn't go very far. However, 850 calories of REAL food like grilled chicken, fish and other lean meats, green, leafy vegetables, whole fruit, etc. will go very far and provide more than enough energy throughout the day. It's silly to think that fried, sugar/starch-loaded, processed foods would provide more energy than a "healthy" lunch.