ALPENA - Thirteen-year-old Thunder Bay Junior High student Keegan Liske created an online petition calling to "re-re-improve school lunches." Liske was inspired to develop and write his own version of the Declaration of Independence, calling it the declaration of school, in response to the drastic changes in schools lunch options.
Liske said the new menus are now too small and unsatisfying for active students, and offer unfair proportions for low income families. Liske said he has many reasons for starting the petition, but overall he is unhappy with the unfilling smaller lunch sizes and the governments approach to fight childhood obesity.
"The new federal law limits school lunches to 750-850 calories with health restrictions and limiting lunch sizes. Many students are unhappy about it," he said. "We found in the beginning of the year that foods that were offered in the past are no longer an option. They even started handing us packets for sauces limiting how many we take."
Alpena Public Schools implemented the changes this year in accordance with the Healthy Hunger - Free Kids Act, but Jan Faulman, food service director, who addressed the APS Board of Education last month, said the new components schools are required to offer are healthier, but ultimately more costly.
"There is a big change in calorie ranges. In the past we had a minimum never a maximum, it really hindered the menus. Healthy eating is terribly more expensive," Faulman said. " Kids are coming home starving because they didn't have enough to eat. What we're doing in Alpena, when kids eat their first meal we invite them back for fresh fruits and vegetables, on us, to help them fill up a little."
In response to the changes, Liske started drafting a petition. However, he waited until after the election to move forward with his online petition, which will be delivered to the Michigan State Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and President Barack Obama.
"My friends kept telling me we should do something about this. So we started drafting a petition. Elijah Adams and Bobby Marceau helped with the rough draft and gave their opinion on what should be included," he said. "We have 76 signatures on our hard copy petition, but I stopped passing it around during the election because I was unsure of Romney's choice on lunches."
After the election, Liske implemented an online petition in an attempt to reach more people. His goal is to receive 1,000 signatures, moving his concerns from a local level to a national obligation.
"This way anyone else who is angered by it can have their say in it too," he said. "I'm fine with healthy foods, but many kids are throwing away fruits and vegetables that they don't like and are forced to take. There are better ways of fighting childhood obesity - invest in sports or let's get moving activities."
Liske said fast food restaurants and inactivity are leading causes in obesity, not school lunches. He said if the government would like to work toward healthier lifestyles then investing in school sports or activity programs to encourage movement would be a positive step, instead of limiting calories.
"(According to Feeding America.org), over 26.7 percent of kids, over 20 million children in the U.S., face food insecurity, which means that lunch may be their only meal of the day. Many lunches are so small in size and also calories, many kids who live in poverty and face food insecurity aren't getting enough to eat," he said. Overall, I would like to see health foods continue at schools, but push our calorie sizes up so we can have bigger lunches, especially for those less fortunate."
The online petition to "re-re-improve" school lunches is available on signon.org/sign/the-declaration-of-school.
Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687.