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December 21 2011

More Failure on School Lunches

Julie Gunlock

Michelle Malkin has a must-read article up on NRO about the failure of the Los Angeles school lunch program. She writes:

While the Obama administration has showered the nation’s second-largest school district with nutrition awards, thousands of students voted with their upset tummies and abandoned the program. A forbidden-food black market — stoked not just by students, but also by teachers — is now thriving. Moreover, “principals report massive waste, with unopened milk cartons and uneaten entrees being thrown away.” 

...

Earlier this spring, L.A. school officials acknowledged that the sprawling district is left with a whopping 21,000 uneaten meals a day, in part because the federal school-lunch program “sometimes requires more food to be served than a child wants to eat.” The leftovers will now be donated to nonprofit agencies. But after the recipients hear about students’ reports of moldy noodles, undercooked meat, and hard rice, one wonders how much of the “free” food will go down the hatch — or down the drain. Ahhh, savor the flavor of one-size-fits-all mandates.

So, let's just review this little tidbit of information.  Instead of improving what children are eating at school, the billions (of taxpayer dollars) being funneled into these "healthy" school lunch initiatives are actually funding massive food waste, food subsidies to nonprofit agencies, and a black-market food industry that's providing children the very food Washington bureaucrats wanted kids to avoid.

I wonder if the news of this program's failure will reach school food critic-in-chief, Jamie Oliver who was denied access to the LA county schools (the School Board actually said Oliver could advise the District but not with his cameras--an offer Jamie declined which reveals his real motives) because the school district already had their own "healthy school lunch" initiative well underway.

In other words, they didn't really need Jamie's help to make kids miserable.

But the LA County School lunch experiment that Malkin writes about perfectly illustrates where Jamie went wrong with his reality show.  The first season was filmed on location in Huntington, West Virginia (often called the unhealthiest city in America) and involved a lot of fighting with the local lunch lady (interestingly, kids wholeheartedly rejected Jamie's so-called “healthy” lunches there too).  The second season was filmed in Los Angeles.  After Jamie was banned from the County schools, the reality show orchestrated a number of silly stunts (crashing industry conferences and filling vehicles with sugar).  Stunts aside, the more important error Jamie made was going to these local schools in the first place. 

Why was going to the local schools the wrong move?  Because they have nothing to do with the problem!

If Jamie really wanted to unearth the problem with school lunches, the reality show needed to be filmed in Washington, D.C.  His cameras should have visited the Department of Agriculture—the federal agency that administers the massive Federal School Lunch program.  Or how about a visit to Congress--members of which have been trying and failing to reform the school lunch program for years (these reforms usually just lead to more layers of bureaucracy and less control by the locals).  Or…Jamie could have scheduled a super healthy lunch with the First Lady.  Maybe he could ask her why she’s so keen to get more kids hooked on school lunches?

Lastly, Jamie should have spent more time talking to parents.  In his first season he staged a cringe-worthy stunt in one mother's home by piling up junk food on her kitchen table then making her and her family do a sort of funeral scene in the backyard while the mom tearfully dug a hole and buried her deep fat fryer.  Instead of all the theatrics, Jamie might have treated Americans like adults and pointed out the obvious--kids are healthier when mom and dad take a role in their nutrition.  Jamie knows that there's only one full-proof way to feed your kids a healthy meal at school--pack it yourself. 

Parents need to stop supporting programs aimed at improving school lunches.  It's tempting to support these programs when they are promoted using the popular slogan "it's for the children," but as Michelle Malkin points out in her excellent piece, these programs do nothing more than set up children to rely on the government for their most basic needs. 

When parents take back this very basic parental responsibility, we might finally see improvement in the way kids eat.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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