By Ari Schnitzer | Copy Editor
This summer, a new Texas law was implemented that forces schools to follow strict nutritional guidelines set in place by the USDA. Besides the health aspect of the USDA’s new “Competitive Rule”, it also restricts the sale of competitive food from outside vendors, which effectively takes the “lunch” out of Lunch on the Lawn.
“The law states that no outside food may be sold to students unless it’s before 7:15 am or after 4:45 pm on a school day,” student counsel sponsor Rebecca Keeton said. “And anything that is sold to students must meet the correct number of calories listed in the guidelines of the new law.”
To put the USDA’s Competitive Rule in perspective, sharecare.com states that “no more than 500 mg of sodium should be ingested per meal.” The USDA’s new standards state that a school meal may only have less than or equal to 480 mg of sodium. It also states that an entree may only have less than or equal to 350 calories, and a snack less than or equal to 200 calories.
Even if the changes appear to be subtle, they’ll have a much bigger impact on the school than we realize. Every vendor that came to last spring’s Lunch on the Lawn, including Urban Crust, Maui Wowie, and Dippin’ Dots, all fail to meet the new health standards, without exception.
The USDA’s Competitive Rule promotes the “Smart Snacks” regulation, which essentially means that any food during the school day must be approved by the school and meet the new nutritional standards. All of the new restrictions regarding healthier eating, stricter standards, and competitive food all add up to … what?
“This spring there will still be a Lunch on the Lawn with a DJ, just no food trucks,” Ms. Keeton said. “Kids will just bring the cafeteria food with them outside.”
Because we’d all love sitting outside eating our chicken sandwiches from the cafeteria while our “DJ” loops that month’s five most popular pop songs over and over until lunch is finished, wouldn’t we?
There’s no rule against outside food being given to students, only outside food that is sold to students. The problem: No restaurant would be willing to give away an amount of food that large for nothing in return.
Another solution would be to have the PTA or another school sponsor hold a fundraiser and then the proceeds would go to buying catered food for the students. This way the food would already be paid for and it could simply be given to the students. The problem: there wouldn’t be enough food to give away to all students, so the students that have had food paid for them would have to represent that with a ticket, which represents a sale.
The only other plausible options are to make Lunch on the Lawn an event held outside of school, maybe on a Saturday morning, but no students want to wake up early to come eat food at school with their teachers. We could keep Lunch on the Lawn and just replace the food trucks with vendors that meet the new standards, but it’s doubtful that salad trucks will create much excitement.
Unless this law gets revoked, students might just have to accept the circumstances. Bring your lunch on the day of Lunch on the Lawn, talk to your friends, and enjoy the weather. Soon enough we will get over the absence of food trucks at this event.