February 28 2014
New School Lunch Rules Get a Failing Grade
Patrice J. Lee
This week, there’s been a media blitz to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign. From her appearances on popular TV shows with celebrities to news pieces fawning over her role in driving private sector change so quickly compared to federal regulators, there’s been no end to the FLOTUS sightings and finger waging about our eating habits.
If Americans are a little tired and queasy, perhaps it’s because they are skeptical of more government regulations and officials tampering with the food choices of their children. Some school systems agree.
A federal audit finds that changes to school lunches as part of the First Lady’s campaign have been disastrous, with students going hungry because of the lowered caloric requirements and food being wasted as kids find the new items unpalatable.
The Washington Times reports:
The federal government’s changes to school lunch menus have been disastrous, causing problems for cafeterias trying to comply with the rules and leaving the menu so expensive or unpalatable that more than 1 million students have stopped buying lunch, according to a government audit released Thursday.
Five of the eight school districts surveyed by the Government Accountability Office, the official watchdog for Congress, said they believed students were going hungry because of smaller entree portions demanded by the rules.
Cafeterias regularly reported finding fruits and vegetables, which they are required to serve, ending up in trash cans. Although no studies have been completed, the government has found an increase in what it calls plate waste in some districts.
After the standards went into effect in the 2012-13 school year, the GAO said, the number of students buying school lunches — which had been on a steady increase — dropped by a total of 1.2 million students.
When a school district has to add back unhealthy pudding and potato chips to reach the caloric minimum requirements so children aren’t hungry throughout the day, there is a problem. The question is will the federal agencies which wrote the rules or the First Lady do anything to correct this?
On Tuesday, Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled new federal standards for food marketing to children. As we’ve reported, that’s where her attention and focus is right now, but that may not be the best use of her efforts.
Bans on advertising unhealthy foods and new requirements on caloric intake are really window dressing for greater government control over our eating habits. If the health of our nation’s children was the priority then federal officials would be willing to calibrate its policies to respond to the negative affects they are having.
What’s at work is a philosophy that individuals aren’t smart enough to make the right decisions for themselves, so “experts” and policymakers in Washington are needed to prod them in line. Excluded from this equation are choice and personal freedom. Government knows that it can’t railroad in through our front doors to empty our refrigerators and pantries so it will use the regulatory means at its disposal to straddle the private sector and coerce our school systems.
The health of our nation’s children is important. The First Lady can be commended for calling attention to growing obesity and unhealthy habits among them.
The means of accomplishing the goal of ending childhood obesity is what we should question as well as how policymakers respond to unintended consequences. If hunger robs our kids of the focus and concentration they need to learn then it’s time to reconsider these policies.
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