Michelle Obama versus GOP (and kids) on school lunch rules

It’s high noon in the lunchroom, as a political battle looms over Michelle Obama’s pet project to force school lunches to provide “healthier” meals. Her lobbying for the “Hunger-Free-Kids-Act” of 2010 is credited with requiring more fruits, veggies, and whole grains in school lunches, along with less fat, sodium and sugar.

Those are all very worthy goals, particularly since obesity is such a problem among youngsters (and the rest of us, too, but Michelle doesn’t get to choose what we eat -- yet). The problem, of course, is that forced to choose between buying the unappetizing fare being offered in response to the detailed rules Michelle hath wrought, a million fewer kids each day are buying school lunches. And that means less work for school lunch workers, and less sales for the companies which peddle their goods to school lunch programs. Darlene Superville of AP lays out the resulting alignment of political forces triggered by the First Lady’s per project:

The School Nutrition Association, an industry-backed group that represents school cafeteria workers and originally supported the standards, has now turned against them. The association says it fully supports getting kids to eat healthier but says many districts are losing money because students aren't buying the healthier lunches.

More than 1 million fewer students eat lunch at school each day since the first round of standards went into effect in 2012, following decades of steadily increasing participation, said Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the association. A second round of rules, including standards for school breakfasts, took effect July 1.

"How can we call these standards a success when they are driving students away from the program?" she said.

Ms. Pratt-Heavener seems to miss the key point here: Michelle Obama and her allies feel much better over having taken a stand against obesity. That the children are bot cooperating and may be eating candy bars, or hitting Mickey D’s instead of eating at the cafeteria is irrelevant.  Besides, this just opens the door for further regulation, because people, especially children, don’t know what is best for them.  The entire project of progressivism rests on the certain knowledge that experts know what is best for ordinary people, and who could have more expertise than Michelle Obama?

Besides, as Lucianne Goldberg remind us today, the kids say that the healthy lunches “taste like vomit.”

The retrograde GOP and venal interests that sell goods to school lunch programs object:

Her group wants more flexibility for districts that are losing money. A House bill to fund the Agriculture Department next year would give districts a chance to apply to skip the requirements for one year.

"As well-intended as the people in Washington believe themselves to be, the reality is that from a practical standpoint these regulations are just plain not working out in some individual school districts," he said after a House panel approved the bill. A vote by the full House is expected after its July Fourth break.

We’ll see how this plays out. All that is at stake is billions of federal dollars tossed in the garage can (literally).

I should note that I am all for good nutrition, but that I have witnessed the foundering of good intentions in the lunchroom on the rocks of stubborn student preferences in my home town of Berkeley, California, where world-famous chef Alice Waters attempted to improve the fare in school cafeterias only to find that the ungrateful wretches disdained the organic, fresh, and supposedly delicious fare that gourmets pay a hundred bucks for at dinner at Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant. If the proprietor of the restaurant named by Gourmet Magazine as the best in the world cannot induce the urchins to eat properly, what makes Michelle Obama think that the lunch ladies can pull it off? 

It’s high noon in the lunchroom, as a political battle looms over Michelle Obama’s pet project to force school lunches to provide “healthier” meals. Her lobbying for the “Hunger-Free-Kids-Act” of 2010 is credited with requiring more fruits, veggies, and whole grains in school lunches, along with less fat, sodium and sugar.

Those are all very worthy goals, particularly since obesity is such a problem among youngsters (and the rest of us, too, but Michelle doesn’t get to choose what we eat -- yet). The problem, of course, is that forced to choose between buying the unappetizing fare being offered in response to the detailed rules Michelle hath wrought, a million fewer kids each day are buying school lunches. And that means less work for school lunch workers, and less sales for the companies which peddle their goods to school lunch programs. Darlene Superville of AP lays out the resulting alignment of political forces triggered by the First Lady’s per project:

The School Nutrition Association, an industry-backed group that represents school cafeteria workers and originally supported the standards, has now turned against them. The association says it fully supports getting kids to eat healthier but says many districts are losing money because students aren't buying the healthier lunches.

More than 1 million fewer students eat lunch at school each day since the first round of standards went into effect in 2012, following decades of steadily increasing participation, said Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the association. A second round of rules, including standards for school breakfasts, took effect July 1.

"How can we call these standards a success when they are driving students away from the program?" she said.

Ms. Pratt-Heavener seems to miss the key point here: Michelle Obama and her allies feel much better over having taken a stand against obesity. That the children are bot cooperating and may be eating candy bars, or hitting Mickey D’s instead of eating at the cafeteria is irrelevant.  Besides, this just opens the door for further regulation, because people, especially children, don’t know what is best for them.  The entire project of progressivism rests on the certain knowledge that experts know what is best for ordinary people, and who could have more expertise than Michelle Obama?

Besides, as Lucianne Goldberg remind us today, the kids say that the healthy lunches “taste like vomit.”

The retrograde GOP and venal interests that sell goods to school lunch programs object:

Her group wants more flexibility for districts that are losing money. A House bill to fund the Agriculture Department next year would give districts a chance to apply to skip the requirements for one year.

"As well-intended as the people in Washington believe themselves to be, the reality is that from a practical standpoint these regulations are just plain not working out in some individual school districts," he said after a House panel approved the bill. A vote by the full House is expected after its July Fourth break.

We’ll see how this plays out. All that is at stake is billions of federal dollars tossed in the garage can (literally).

I should note that I am all for good nutrition, but that I have witnessed the foundering of good intentions in the lunchroom on the rocks of stubborn student preferences in my home town of Berkeley, California, where world-famous chef Alice Waters attempted to improve the fare in school cafeterias only to find that the ungrateful wretches disdained the organic, fresh, and supposedly delicious fare that gourmets pay a hundred bucks for at dinner at Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant. If the proprietor of the restaurant named by Gourmet Magazine as the best in the world cannot induce the urchins to eat properly, what makes Michelle Obama think that the lunch ladies can pull it off? 

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