Because students don't feel full after eating lunch, those who can afford it are supplementing their meals with potato chips, candy bars and other junk items they either bring from home or purchase nearby, effectively negating any potential benefit of the new guidelines, Quarnberg said.
"The government is so concerned about obesity," he said. "We're not solving the problem by cutting back our school lunch programs."
Prall was also critical of the new guidelines. He said Granite had already invested in incorporating fresh fruits into the lunch menu but gave students the freedom to choose as much fruit and vegetables they wanted to eat.
Granite's former menu had more choices each day for students, Prall said, and organizers had to scale back service to ensure that each student's plate fell within the minimums and maximums allowed.
"If we could manage it locally, we would have a better program," he said. "We're forced into a standard that's meant to do things nationally, but we were forced to go backward."
Jana Cruz, Jordan's director of nutrition services, said the district was already moving in the direction of healthier lunch options when the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed.
Cruz said the federal guidelines aren't a step backward as much as they are a different way to step forward.
"I think the guidelines were formed with the best intentions," she said. "We do have problems with the way we eat in our nation."
Cruz said she's confident that, in time, school districts will learn to work within the guidelines to meet students' needs.
Many of the complaints about hungry students stem from a misunderstanding of the new system, she said. As students become more educated about what they can and cannot eat, Cruz said she believes those concerns will be mitigated.
Hungry kids are free to take an extra serving of fruits or vegetables, she said, which is precisely the culinary paradigm shift the guidelines aim to achieve.
"The kids shouldn't be hungry if these regulations are understood," Cruz said. "They're just being asked to take more fruits and vegetables."
For the most part, students have been accepting of the changes, particularly in the younger grades, she said. Older students have expressed dissatisfaction, but after a month of healthy lunches, she said the district was "over the worst of it."
Cruz also said the tension created by the change is arguably the intended consequence, as students in elementary schools will now grow up in a healthier lunchroom and hopefully take those habits with them when they leave school.
Brianna Means, senior class historian at Copper Hills, said that some of the student backlash has already begun to die down.
"They're still complaining, but I think people are finally accepting it," Means said.
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