February 25 2014

Universal School Lunch

Julie Gunlock

Today, the First Lady announced the expansion of the school lunch program (because her reforms have been such a huge success so far). These latest reforms are a bit tough to take. She's not just adding brown rice and apples to kids' lunch trays, she's expanding to school lunch program so that it provides ALL children--regardless of need--with free meals. That's right, for children attending school in districts where 40 percent or more students are eligible for free or reduced lunch,  all kids will be provided free breakfast and lunch--regardless of income and need.

Let me say that another way. Kids whose parents can afford to provide them lunch will get a free meal. That's your tax dollars at work, folks.

The White House says that this move is all part of an effort to "reduce the stigma and paperwork for schools" but that's not the real reason for this expansion. The White House has been making aggressive changes to these feeding programs for one purpose--to reduce the role of parents in children's lives. The Obama administration has made it very clear that they blame parents for the nation's "obesity crisis" and would prefer the feeding of children to be left up to more qualified people, like busy lunch ladies, USDA bureaucrats, and stylish first ladies.

This "parents can stand aside" policy push started shortly after Obama was elected when USDA Secretary Vilsack expanded the school dinner program from a small pilot program that operated in 13 cities to one that operated in all 50 states.  

Then, in 2010, the First Lady helped push the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act through Congress. This bill was supposed to make food healthier but all it really did was increase the number of children getting (still gross!) cafeteria food. An often overlooked provision in the bill created a mechanism for the automatic enrollment of poor kids. This eliminated the step of parents actually going to the school to fill out paperwork in order to get their kids signed up for free or reduced priced meals. The bill also created an incentive for states to push for more kids eating school lunches. In fact, the USDA now offers bonuses to states that increase their free lunch rolls. 

 

Some will applaud this move but this is terrible news for kids because this reform will further damaged the already tenuous parent-child relationships by making parents’ involvement in their children’s nutrition an even more remote occurrence. And this will particularly affect poor children who suffer the highest rates of obesity. Studies overwhelmingly show that parental involvement is critical to a child's healthy development.  In fact, the First Lady admits that the only thing that motivated her own daughters to eat healthier was HER involvement, not some big government feeding program. 

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