A while back I created a post on how the bureaucracy had no common sense.
When I wrote that post I didn’t think about perhaps the most egregious case of bureaucratic overreach that we have seen in recent years. That is the Michelle Obama “Smart Lunch” program. I suppose the reason was that I don’t have kids, but still. The lunches put up by the kids were just awful as the kids reported on social media.
Of course the whole thing started, as usual, “with the best of intentions.” That’s the way that these disasters always start. There is an outcry about some problem. In this case it was childhood obesity. Which might be a real problem, but it isn’t the kind of problem that lend itself to government.
While the law was initially hailed as a noble effort to address the strange American paradox of childhood hunger and obesity, the HHFKA may have created more problems than it solved. Lawmakers are bracing for a food fight on Capitol Hill this month (the law expires on September 30), amid strong criticisms about unappetizing meals, wasted food, and financial strain on school districts. School nutritionists are urging that strict sodium and whole-grain rules be rolled back, as well as the requirement that kids must take either a fruit or a vegetable with their lunch. These rules have led to a huge uptick in food waste, as kids simply throw the items they don’t like in the trash. To be sure, complaints about school lunches are nothing new. Jokes about mystery meat served up in the school cafeteria have been around for generations. And there is certainly nothing earth-shattering about children throwing perfectly edible fruits and vegetables in the garbage can. What is new — and has far-reaching consequences — is the rapid expansion of another costly federal welfare program. And unlike other welfare programs, this one doesn’t give assistance just to poor kids who need it; many students who could well afford to buy their own lunch (or bring one from home) now get two taxpayer-funded meals a day. And the cost of the program — estimated at about $16 billion for 2016 — will continue to rise each year as more districts sign up for the food freebies. (Participation in the program is not mandatory but the USDA and state education departments are pushing hard for districts to sign up.)If the program is reauthorized, it will inculcate an entire generation with the belief that government, not their parents or themselves, is primarily responsible for what they eat every day. Mom making breakfast and handing off a homemade lunch on the way out the door is an experience millions of children will miss, not necessarily because of adverse family circumstances, but because the government has made it much easier and cheaper to forgo that duty. “It’s one less thing for them [the parents] to do in the morning,” commented the Chicago teacher. Easing the daily burden of packing a lunch was not the original intent of the National School Lunch Program. It began after World War II to make sure poor children were fed, a national purpose still needed today and not in dispute. Even the goal of offering healthier school lunches as the nation confronts a childhood-obesity crisis (one in three American kids is overweight or obese) is commendable.But the HHFKA’s overreach usurps parental responsibility for questionable results. There are no outcome-based goals, no measurement for long-term success. It’s an emotional reaction to both a health crisis and a crisis in confidence concerning American parents, somewhat warranted but possibly having a great deal to do with government’s gradually assuming the role of parents.
The problem is that all you are doing is torturing the kids and just making things worse. This is a typical “one size fits all” government type thinking for a situation where “one size fits all doesn’t come near to describing the typical school. What may be an adequate lunch for a first grader, isn’t going to come close to meeting the dietary requirements of a sixth grader in an athletic program. That sixth grader is going to start to starve. In fact that has already happened.
The problem doesn’t get any easier as the kids get older. Trying to meet the Feds requirements, under the threat of losing funding, and keep costs under control just makes the problem worse. With results as twittered by the kids.
You know a bureaucracy has run amuck when they can’t keep their hands off school lunches or even parties. Not being satisfied with screwing up the lunches the school provides, the USDA is even laying down guidelines for food that brought into the school from home, including the stuff for class parties and bake sales.
Starting next year, bringing a dozen homemade cupcakes to your child’s classroom to celebrate his or her birthday will be tantamount to lighting up a cigarette on the blacktop. Candy canes and gingerbread men people will be verboten during the school’s Christmas party winter celebration. And this Spring, don’t expect any candy in the classroom; the Easter fuzzy bunny is strictly prohibited from entering school grounds. As for next year’s Halloween fall festivities: kids should brace for water and carrots (hey, they’re orange!). What fun!
This is all good news to writer Bettina Elias Siegel, who recently covered this important school-based cookie crisis for a story in the New York Times. Siegel writes (my translation from alarmist gibberish to reasonable person is provided in brackets):
The season of junk-food-laden [fun and celebratory] classroom holiday parties is upon us. And while some [normal and reasonable] parents see all the cakes, candy and salty snacks as a harmless indulgence during a festive season, others [certain joyless, Dickensian, wet blankets] object to any [ANY!] unhealthy food in the classroom.
Siegel goes on to provide reassurance by optimistically and without a hint of irony explaining, “…the federal government is stepping in to help address the issue of classroom food.” Siegel then reports that starting in 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will require all school districts that participate in school feeding programs (so, you know, all of them) to create “nutritional standard” for all foods and beverages served in schools, including items brought to the school by parents and any food-based prizes given out by teachers.
I don’t expect Siegel or anyone who writes for the Times to understand the outright absurdity and hilarity that the feds are “here to help” with what’s being characterized as a holiday food crisis. But, no doubt millions of parents do appreciate how preposterous it is for a government agency (at any level) to spend one millisecond on this issues, considering the, oh, billion or so more important things on which they could be focused. Does any sensible person think this “holiday cookies disaster” requires federal (or state or local) intervention?
Sadly, the answer is a resounding yes for those in the Obama administration. In fact, the feds have been utterly obsessed with school-based food since President Obama took office. First, it was the school lunch “reforms,” which passed Congress in 2010 and which led to a massive, school-based food waste problem (ignored by liberals and environmentalists) as well as a legion of hungry and generally angry and annoyed kids (ignored by the media) who were forced to eat this “healthier” food. Then there was the banning of anything resembling a snack in school vending machines. And then, the feds took away the higher-fat and higher calorie “a la carte” items like mozzarella sticks and nachos sold in school cafeterias and replaced them with fruit cups, baked chips, and yogurt.
Of course, what didn’t happen was any sort of interaction with parents. At no point was there any discussion with or encouragement for parents to take a bigger role in their kids’ nutritional development. Parents weren’t encouraged to pack lunches, nor were they reminded that school-based food programs are for kids that live at or under the poverty line (so, in other words, some suggestion that maybe richer and middle class parents should stop using the school food program would have been nice). Parents also weren’t informed of the significant body of scientific evidence that shows parents who are more involved in their children’s eating habits and who practice certain parenting strategies (putting kids to bed earlier, limiting screen time, having family dinners) had children that were better able to maintain healthy weights. That’s useful information parents want to hear yet that information was never provided.
The lady in the article above is all for the programs. In fact she’s a big advocate for them, as the article quoted above shows.
While it’s too soon to say how most districts will respond to the federal mandate, there’s room for improvement in many classrooms. According to a national survey of school district wellness policies conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, most districts don’t have standards for the foods and drinks served at classroom parties. Although nearly one in four districts discourage teachers from giving food as a reward, only 13 percent prohibit the practice.
One option for districts is to simply adopt the so-called “Smart Snacks” rules that govern snacks and drinks sold to children through vending machines and school fund-raisers. The rules went into effect in 2014, and are familiar territory to most school districts. Adopting the Smart Snacks rules for classroom food would also steer parents toward store-bought items instead of homemade, reducing the risk of harm to food-allergic children.
But depending on a given community’s nutritional ethos, the Smart Snacks rules could be seen as too lenient or too stringent. Unless otherwise exempted, homemade birthday cupcakes would be out, but many highly processed snacks, including some with considerable amounts of added sugar, would still be permissible. For instance, a Trix cereal bar, with 150 calories and more than 50 percent whole grain oats, would pass muster, even though the second and third ingredients are corn syrup and sugar.
She even has her own website, the lunch tray.
She see what’s happening as, “tremendous progress we’ve made over the last six years in improving our children’s school food environment.” What she’s talking about is the same kind of “tremendous progress” that they are having in Venezuela right now. It’s the same kind of “tremendous progress” that happens whenever the government controls a food supply. Including how the people responsible for the program act. Here’s how she describes the actions of first lady Michelle Obama.
“But my concern has always been the close association between the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and a First Lady who so vigorously championed its passage and later defended it against critics. Even though the HHFKA had its origins in the George W. Bush administration, and even though its nutrition standards were recommended by the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine, it’s Michelle Obama – and, by extension, her husband – who’ve been the public faces of this effort.”
Yes, the first lady was all there for the program except for the most important thing. Subjecting her own kids to the program. While the kids in public schools get what we see above, the kids at places like Sidwell Friends have a rather different lunch experience. See the two articles below.
For Tuesday, Dec. 9, the scrumptious, bountiful lunch menu for both the middle school and the upper school at Sidwell Friends is:
Potato Sausage Soup; Firecracker Slaw; California Chef’s Salad; All Natural Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings; Sweet Potato Black Bean Bake; Sautéed Local Greens; Gemelli Alfredo; Sliced Pineapple
This menu of completely free lunch items certainly sounds delicious and nutritious. Also, to be clear, it’s for a single day, not the entire week.
All this hoo-hah had me wondering what do Obama’s kids eat at school? Both daughters attend an expensive private school called, ‘Sidwell Friends School.’
Mushroom Barley Soup
Meriwether’s Three Bean Salad
Greek Orzo Salad
All Natural Teriyaki Chicken
Asian Fried Rice
Chicken teriyaki with rice (generic photo)
Which is right in line with how government works. The cloud people exempt themselves from the downsides of the programs that they inflict on the rest of us while always increasing the pressure and tyranny to prevent people from escaping or mitigating the consequences of those programs. The cloud people always have an excuse for why they must be exempted, but the results are always the same. It’s time to kill these programs. We don’t need to waste government money on inedible food that the kids will not eat. The only real thing the kids are getting out of the school lunch programs are lesson in how well government works, or doesn’t. It’s time to end these program and save the children.