Congress imposed nutritional guidelines on the nation’s school districts in 2010, and there have been some growing pains. The rules, which mandate things like one fruit or vegetable item must be served to each student, have had plenty of detractors, including a group of school cafeteria workers who want Congress to scale back some of their rules in order to make meeting them more realistic.

In the meantime, students at one rural Indiana school district have taken matters into their own hands to fight the healthier, but not-as-flavorful food. The Indy Star has the details:

Blackford County students have been caught bringing — and even selling — salt, pepper and sugar to make cafeteria lunches taste better, a county school board official told a congressional panel looking at whether to ease school lunch nutrition rules Wednesday.

“This ‘contraband’ economy is just one example of many that reinforce the call for flexibility,” said John Payne, president of the Blackford County School Board of Trustees and a director of the Indiana School Board Association.

While it’s incredibly entertaining to picture kids lining up for baggies of salt like it’s molly, it does pose an interesting question: Are these guidelines actually effective? Besides being costly to school districts—especially rural ones—several other interesting tidbits from the article point to the dietary restrictions’ backfiring.

[pullquote]Critics also say the new standards have caused students to stop participating while also resulting in waste as kids throw away fruits, vegetables and whole-grain food they don’t like.

“I’ve stuck my head in a lot of garbage cans lately in school cafeterias and I’ve seen a lot of that,” [Indiana Rep. Todd] Rokita said.[/pullquote]


“More students bring their lunch, and a few parents even ‘check out’ their child from campus,” Payne said, “taking them to a local fast-food restaurant or home for lunch.”

It’s an interesting paradox: In trying to force kids to eat healthy, schools are driving their students to unhealthier eating. And while administrators are all for more-nutritional meals, they’re hesitant to support regulations that cut sodium intake when sodium might not be that bad, as Fusion found out when it spoke with Blackford High School principal Annie Baddoo.

In any case, maybe the key to convincing students on the benefits of healthy eating would easier if America’s school lunches looked like this.

[Fusion via Indy Star]