In 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, imposing standards on what public schools could and could not serve in their cafeterias. Over at Blackford High School in Hartford City, Ind., kids reacted to one of those standards—a limit on how much sodium is allowed in their food—by selling salt in the cafeteria for "a dollar a shake."
Blackford High School principal Annie Baddoo told Fusion that she is sympathetic to the cause of the handful of students caught selling salt in the cafeteria for a dollar a shake. Not that she's condoning the practice, mind you; as soon as the black market was sniffed out, she shut the whole operation down. But there's an underlying issue here both Baddoo and the kids would likely both agree on: that the federal government's rules about how much sodium belongs in food are not only arbitrary, but detrimental to the student body.
"Yeah, they don’t like the food," Baddoo told Fusion. "And the thing that bothers me is that there are kids who don’t get adequate food at home. They need to eat when they’re here. I’m all about serving healthy food—I definitely don’t have an issue with that."
Recently, John Payne, president of the Blackford County School Board of Trustees, went in front of Congress to address this very issue. Via the Indianapolis Star:
Payne was among state and local school officials asked to testify on how difficult it's been to comply with the nutrition standards Congress imposed in 2010 to combat childhood obesity and improve kid's diets. The rules, for example, require students to take a fruit or vegetable as part of their meal.
It's not just fruit and vegetables, though. Among the stricter nutrition standards schools now must meet is an emphasis on reduced sodium intake. Without as much salt in their food, Baddoo says, students at Blackford have stopped eating the school's lunches because they don't like the way they taste.
According to the 2010 "Dietary Health Guide For Americans" from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it's recommended that children limit their sodium intake to 2300 milligrams a day. (A turkey sandwich and a cup of soup averages 2200 milligrams). Many studies, though, say salt's not really much of a problem. As Scientific American puts it in the subhead of this 2011 piece, "the zealous drive by politicians to limit our salt intake has little basis in science."
Baddoo is, understandably, frustrated by these potentially pseudoscientific rules affecting the well-being of her students.
"I totally applaud that something has to be done for better nutrition," Baddoo says. "I just have an issue with the really hard and fast guidelines we had to comply with immediately, and I don’t think it’s working."
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.