Pu⁠t⁠⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ng Amer⁠i⁠ca’s K⁠i⁠ds on ⁠t⁠he Lame Duck D⁠i⁠e⁠t⁠

By: The James Madison Institute / 2015



Who knows best when it comes to deciding what America’s schoolchildren ought to eat? Should their parents decide? Apparently not; in fact, some Chicago schools have barred pupils from bringing lunches from home.

Could it be school cafeterias’ managers? After all, they’re presumably informed about nutrition and aware of the pupils’ tastes as reflected in how much of what’s served ends up in the kids’ tummies and how much in the garbage.

They’re also aware of how ethnic and regional preferences play a role in what kids eat or toss. In this large and diverse nation, tastes may range from ham, grits, and turnips to salmon, brown rice, and broccoli.

As it turns out, however, all wisdom on what our kids should eat evidently resides in Washington, D.C. That’s where Congress passed “The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” rewriting the rules for the meals that millions of kids are served each day. Consider just a few of the details, as reported in Education Week:

Breakfast: Every day all students must be offered a full cup of fruit and a meat or meat substitute, but no tofu or starchy vegetables – potatoes, corn, peas, or lima beans. The feds also decree a calorie range: 350-500 for elementary schools, 400-550 for middle schools, and 450-600 for high school kids, whether they’re willowy would-be ballerinas or stocky aspiring linebackers.

Lunch: High school pupils must be offered a full cup of fruit and a full cup of veggies every day. And, the feds stipulate, at least once a week they must be offered a half cup of dark green veggies, a half cup of orange veggies, and a half cup of legumes.

The projected additional cost to school districts over the next five years is $6.8 billion – an estimate concocted by the federal government, which is not known for accurate forecasts.

Then there’s the lingering question of whether kids all over this diverse land will actually consume what the feds prescribe. As Education Week reported, some food supervisors doubt it.

Said one: “Bok choy? Watercress? That’s going to be different. When we think of kids trying new vegetables, the first time, they just look at it. The second time, they smell it. And the third or fourth time, maybe, they eat it.” Added another: “I think much of the additional produce will end up in the garbage instead of students’ stomachs.”

Worse, whenever decisions shift to Washington from the levels closest to the people, lobbyists for large special interests get more involved. Consider, for instance, a revealing reaction from the National Potato Council.
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