Remember the venerable old joke:
Lackey: “Sire, sire! The peasants are revolting!”
King: “They certainly are.”
What is it with the Obama Administration and the names of laws? “The Affordable Care Act,” AKA Obamacare, is anything but affordable. Individuals and the federal budget are suffering and will suffer unto bankruptcy if its not repealed. And now we have the 2010 “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.” Care to guess whether its making kids healthier or less hungry?
Even the Washington Post, that publicity arm of the Obama White House, isn’t hewing to the party line:
First lady Michelle Obama told a group of school nutrition experts Tuesday that ‘we have to be willing to fight the hard fight’ against Republican proposals on Capitol Hill that would permit a delay in enforcing new school lunch standards.
‘The last thing we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health,’ she told a roundtable meeting hosted by the White House. Now is not the time to roll back everything we have worked for.’
Mrs. Obama is nearly as adept as Mr. Obama at erecting straw men. Anyone opposing her mandates is trying to damage the health of children. What’s the real story? As sometimes happens, this scruffy little blog was ahead of the nutritional curve. In December of 2013, I posted “School Lunch on the High Speed Rail to Nutritional Oblivion.” I wrote:
After just one year, some schools around the country are dropping out of the healthier new federal lunch program, complaining that so many students turned up their noses at meals packed with whole grains, fruits and vegetables that the cafeterias were losing money.
Federal officials say they don’t have exact numbers but have seen isolated reports of schools cutting ties with the $11 billion National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for meals served and gives them access to lower-priced food.
Districts that rejected the program say the reimbursement was not enough to offset losses from students who began avoiding the lunch line and bringing food from home or, in some cases, going hungry.
People out there in flyover country, the little people, the unsophisticated rubes who want to harm the health of children by ignoring Michelle Obama, our gracious beltway mother, are daring to defy her and their federal masters:
Some of the stuff we had to offer, they wouldn’t eat,’ said Catlin, Ill., Superintendent Gary Lewis, whose district saw a 10 to 12 percent drop in lunch sales, translating to $30,000 lost under the program last year.
‘So you sit there and watch the kids, and you know they’re hungry at the end of the day, and that led to some behavior and some lack of attentiveness.’
In upstate New York, a few districts have quit the program, including the Schenectady-area Burnt Hills Ballston Lake system, whose five lunchrooms ended the year $100,000 in the red.
Near Albany, Voorheesville Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said her district lost $30,000 in the first three months. The program didn’t even make it through the school year after students repeatedly complained about the small portions and apples and pears went from the tray to the trash untouched.
More recently, the Waterford, WI schools opted out of the federal program, foregoing federal funds. Why? Federal rules require food kids won’t eat and the portions are too small:
Waterford Graded’s School Board unanimously voted in January to leave the National School Lunch Program for the coming 2014-15 school year, when the new food healthiness requirements will be in effect, said District Administrator Chris Joch. [skip]
The federal rules shut down choice and student run shops that sell coffee and snacks.
‘Those changes would be especially problematic for Waterford High School. A coffee shop run by special education students would likely have to close given the calories and sugars in specialty coffee drinks, [school superintendent] Brandstetter said. The school’s a la carte revenue would also likely decline, according to Taher, the high school’s food service vendor.
And, when it comes to the meals themselves, the requirements ‘just restrict us a little too much,’ Brandstetter said. Students have complained about taste, portions are not big enough for athletes and dollars get wasted on fruits and vegetables that students must take but often throw away, he said.
The kids are less than impressed with Mrs. Obama’s idea of appropriate nutrition:
The taste has gotten a lot worse and the portions have gotten a lot smaller,’ said junior D.J. McGilvary. ‘The pizza my freshman year tasted good, and now it tastes like cardboard. And nachos — there’s a lot less chips than there used to be.’
Junior Austin Mealy said the school lunches leave him hungry in the afternoon at track practice.
‘Most of us are athletes and we need more food,’ he said.
Even in New York state, hardly hardcore conservative country, schools are deciding to harm the health of children:
At least three local school districts — Voorheesville, Niskayuna and Burnt Hills–Ballston Lake — and Bethlehem High Schoolhave opted out of the federal program, giving back reimbursements in order to have more flexibility in what they serve students. Because, it turns out, since the regulations took effect schools were seeing a decline in food sales as well as wasted food because students were throwing it away.
‘Especially, the high school athletes were complaining that they were still hungry after eating lunch,’ said Burnt Hills–Ballston Lake district communications specialist Christy Multer. ‘Many students brought in lunch from home.’
Food sales declined at all five BH-BL schools during 2012-13, and even with reimbursement from the National School Lunch Program, the district’s lunch program ended the 2012-13 school year roughly $100,000 in debt — more than any previous year.
Federal bureacrats are often derisively called “bean counters.” Now they’re forcing actual bean counting on schools:
For BH-BL food service manager Nicola Boehm, it will mean once again serving student favorites like the chicken patty and creating meals under less restriction. And, said [Christy] Multer [school district communications specialist], it will eliminate the kinds of regulations that have the cafeteria staff counting the number of beans they put on a student’s tray.
‘It was hard to work around such rigid regulations,’ Multer said
For example, the elementary students’ favorite meal was a chicken patty, which contains 3 ounces of protein.
Under the federal lunch program, students’ meals could contain no more than 10 ounces per week.
If the chef was to serve the whole chicken patty for two lunches in one week, the chef would only have 4 ounces of protein to work with for rest of the week, according to Multer.
Without the regulations, the chef can use part of the chicken patty in a mini croissant and those plain beans can be added to the students’ favorite, taco salad.
Schools are doing what simply can’t be allowed by Mrs. Obama: understanding human beings and making sense:
Part of eating isn’t just what your stomach or brain says,’ said Multer. ‘Our food service manager is excited to add Southern-style chicken and biscuits and lasagna to the menu.”
The school district ensured that they will continue to offer meals that are as healthy as those required under the National School Lunch Program, but that more students will actually purchase and eat.
‘Opting out of the program had nothing do to with politics,’ said Multer. ‘It depended solely on what’s best for our students and school district.
Once again, America is left with a stark choice: do what Michelle Obama demands, because she alone knows what is good for us, and ignoring that or in any way diluting her law would be a tragedy such that mankind has never before experienced. Or provide food that kids will actually eat, in sufficient quantities, prevent huge amounts of food from being thrown away, and in the process, keep schools from losing money on school lunches.
As I noted in the December article:
Who woulda thunk it? Kids, at the most active, calorie burning stage of their lives, being unsatisfied by unpalatable, stingy portions of food they don’t like in the first place? You’d pretty much have to be a federal bureaucrat not to see this one coming.
Another substantial irony is that the Left, which always claims to care deeply for the poor, cares only for “the poor” as an abstraction. That individual children are compelled to throw away food they can’t stomach and go hungry is meaningless. The policy has been mandated (and is infallible), huge amounts of money have been spent, so the self-styled elite can feel good about themselves for feeding poor children, and with ‘healthy’ food to boot!
The reality is that that the federal government pays only for the food it mandates. The school districts serving the poorest students—usually the poorest school districts (interesting coincidence, that) can’t afford to dump the federal programs and forfeit the funding. Districts with small portions of free and reduced lunch populations–more affluent schools–can afford it, and are dropping the program in increasing numbers so they can feed children adequately with food that won’t end up in the trash.
If Michelle Obama had her way, kids would eat what she demanded and like it. Unfortunately for her, the peasants, fueled by garbage cans full of “healthy” food, dwindling school lunch bank accounts, and the rumbling stomachs of the children whose health they are determined to ruin, are revolting. The irony is as delicious as Mrs. Obama’s straw men are ephemeral.