Get government out of the lunchroom

June 5, 2014 

Get a load of what the federal government is trying to force our children to eat for lunch at school: More fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and foods with less salt, sugar and fat!

What kind of insane nanny-state plot is this anyway? Imagine, school cafeterias with no more undercooked, soggy French fries, no more floppy, cardboard-flavored pizza with gummy cheese-like material on top, no more fried tan nuggets containing unrecognizable chicken parts.

It’s an outrage! The government shouldn’t be dictating what’s served in our public school cafeterias – even if some government always has dictated what’s served in our public school cafeterias!

But this so-called “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act” is the work of Congress. It was passed in 2010, and guidelines for school lunches were published in January 2012, giving schools only two short years to change their menus.

Make no mistake, though, this wasn’t simply Congress acting in the best interests of the more than 20 percent of American children who are obese. No, one of those working hardest to push this intrusive bill through Congress was first lady Michelle Obama, who apparently has nothing better to do than grow vegetables on the White House lawn and preach to kids about exercising and eating healthy foods.

The fact that somebody named Obama is involved in this effort certainly could have nothing to do with Republican opposition in the House. Freedom-loving members of the House Appropriations Committee recently approved an agriculture spending bill that would allow schools to opt out of the new guidelines.

Even though 90 percent of the nation’s schools say they already have successfully adopted the healthier guidelines, some schools complain that fruits and vegetables are too expensive, and some kids are throwing away their carrots and apples without eating them. Why are we trying to get kids to eat stuff they don’t like?

As we all know, kids, themselves, are the best judges of what they should eat. Given their sophisticated palates and their intuitive sense of what good nutrition is, we shouldn’t try to alter their eating habits in any way, such as trying to foist applesauce on them instead of a doughnut.

And if you need an authoritative source, just ask the School Nutrition Association, the group that is lobbying against the federal healthier food standards. With “nutrition” as its middle name, we surely can trust this organization to do what’s best for our children, even if half of its revenue comes from sources in the food industry, including PepsiCo, Pizza Hut, Coca-Cola, Tyson Food Service, Domino’s Pizza, Sara Lee and Schwan’s Food Service, which, according to The Washington Post, sells pizzas to 75 percent of America’s schools.

The association supported the law in 2010, and 19 former association presidents recently urged House members to stick with the guidelines. But the current leaders of SNA have concluded – undoubtedly after careful study – that the rules are just too inflexible.

For example, some schools have reported that, rather than eat carrots, apples, salads and other unappetizing foods, some children have begun bringing food from home. One horror after another! While red-blooded Americans certainly don’t want the government telling children what to eat for lunch, do we really want to leave that decision up to their parents?

This is the land of the free. We should let the market decide what children get served for lunch.

If children want corn dogs, sugary soft drinks, chicken nuggets and gummy pizza – and food industry giants can make hundreds of millions of dollars selling those foods to schools – then the natural order of things has prevailed.

In other words, keep your healthy-food-harvesting government hands off my kid’s lunch!

James Werrell, Herald opinion page editor, can be reached at 329-4081 or, by email, at jwerrell@heraldonline.com.

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