As parents of active teenagers know, it’s generally pretty hard to keep food on the table, or even in the refrigerator. Kids who are working, participating in athletics or even just studying hard can work up a terrific appetite.

I know this from experience. When our son was in high school, he came home ravenous after spending a long day in class then heading straight to cross country or soccer practice. We tried the tactic of serving him two helpings first, then trying to get the rest of the family served before his plate was clean.

Sometimes it worked; mostly it didn’t.

But the notion of active kids like mine, the kind who burn off a lot of calories and build up big appetites while staying very fit, apparently did not occur to the folks who established the new federal lunch school rules.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new rules, launched in this school year, spell out the maximum number of calories that can be in a school lunch.

The rules are designed, in part, to combat childhood obesity. It’s a worthy goal. But the problem is that in trying to solve the childhood obesity program you actually starve the more active children. And don’t we also want kids to be active.

The USDA rules calorie maximums are based on age, but there is no flexibility to provide for how active the students are. A kid who goes to football practice, or runs several miles in cross country after school gets the same amount as another kid who stays inside after school and only moves his fingers playing video games.

Not every student is the same and some just need more calories than others. Instead the school lunch rules are a one-size-fits-all approach. The bureaucrats laid down the rules and expected it to work for every kid, in every school, in every community coast to coast.

And, until some common sense prevails, we’ll be hearing a lot of growling stomachs from active kids who just aren’t getting enough to eat.

  Written by Dirck Steimel
Dirck is the news services manager for Iowa Farm Bureau