Schools may get a reprieve from Michelle Obama's lunch program
There have been a lot of bad ideas promoted by government over the years. Some doozies have been Carter's support for radical jihadists during the Russian-Afghanistan war; deficit spending; and, of course, Obamacare. All three of those decisions made by our leaders have risen up to bite us in the butt over the last decade or more.
But Michelle Obama's "healthy" school lunch program may have the virtue of being the dumbest idea, if not the most expensive. The proof is in the results. School districts, faced with mandatory menu changes that substituted unpalatable foods for what the government considers "unhealthy" fare, discovered a revolt on their hands from kids who refused to buy the swill and threw out record amounts of perfectly good food.
The program was a spectacular failure that now, mercifully, is probably coming to an ignoble end.
The lobbying group representing 54,000 school cafeteria workers sent a letter to the Trump White House asking the president to repeal most of the mandates in the former first lady's school lunch program, citing the loss of revenue and food waste.
Feeling that they have an ally on their side in the Trump administration, their lobby group, the School Nutrition Association, plans to press for less-strict restrictions on ingredients that taste good.
The reason is simple: Studies show that public school students aren't eating what cafeterias are serving, turning many operations into money-losers. While the school districts can opt out, doing so results in federal subsidy cuts for those programs.
"Overly prescriptive regulations have resulted in unintended consequences, including reduced student lunch participation, higher costs and food waste. Federal nutrition standards should be modified to help school menu planners manage these challenges and prepare nutritious meals that appeal to diverse student tastes," a new policy paper from the association said.
Salt's a biggie, and the Department of Agriculture under former President Barack Obama was pressing for even lower amounts, which the association wants to shelve. It warned that "naturally occurring sodium present in meat, milk and other low-fat dairy foods will force schools to take nutritious choices off the menu, including many soups, entrée salads and low-fat deli sandwiches."
Whole grains are a problem, too. The Obama administration pushed for expensive all-grain products to be used, forcing schools to spend more on the products kids won't buy. As a result, they want that regulation eased.
"Students are eating more whole grain breads and rolls, but schools are struggling with limited availability of specialty whole grain items and meeting students' regional and cultural preferences for certain refined grains, such as white rice, pasta, grits, bagels or tortillas," said the policy paper.
The consequences may have been "unintended," but they were entirely predictable. Anyone who knows anything about children and what they like to eat could have told the bureaucrats that their "substitutions" would be avoided like the plague. Indeed, the concept of forcing kids to go hungry or eat what the government tells them to eat resulted in kids eating less and sneaking more unhealthy alternatives past the food police at school.
The answer isn't the government forcing "healthy" food on kids. The answer is education and choice. Teaching children about eating high-fat, high-calorie foods in moderation and making healthier food choices should be part of a school's curriculum. And giving kids the widest variety of food choices with a good mix of foods they like and foods they need will probably accomplish the same goals as Mrs. Obama's program's without government mandates.
Michelle Obama's healthy school lunch program has made the bad government hall of shame for its disregard of reality and heavy-handed government control of what kids eat.