Chicago suburb tells feds to keep their money -- and their regulations

A school district in Chicago’s northwest suburbs is quitting the National School Lunch Program over new regulations championed by first lady Michelle Obama.  The so-called Smart Snacks in School policy, set to take effect on July 1, is the latest attempt by our Regulator-in-Chief to dictate every aspect of Americans’ behavior.  It dictates strict calorie, sodium, fat, and sugar guidelines for any food sold in schools during the day.  That even includes the ubiquitous bake sales and other fundraisers.  Instead of forcing the school district’s 500 low income kids and others to eat “healthier,” however, the administration is only creating uncertainty for them.

Arlington Heights Township High School District 214 gave the feds the heave-ho rather than submit, even though it will lose a $900,000 federal subsidy.  Board members, however, said that it’s “relatively certain” that the new regulations would take a sizeable bite out of other revenue:  its $2.2 million that comes from its a la carte menu, which sells things like pizza, fries, and Subway sandwiches; and its $543,000 annual vending machine revenue.  School districts cannot forego that kind of revenue, especially these days, without hurting education.

With the federal government’s heavy hand off its back, the district is taking a free-market based approach with its own healthy menu that it believes will draw more businesses into the program. 

“We have a nutritionist who runs our food services,” school board president Bill Dussling told the Chicago Tribune. “We’re not looking at this willy-nilly.”  The board also noted that even the feds can’t force kids to eat their food and that their own menu provides variety as well as nutrition. 

One low-income parent told The Tribune that it would hurt his family if the reduced-price meal model is significantly changed.  “It would affect me, but I’m for it,” he said. “You must try something because the government can’t control everything.”