The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), originally passed in 2010 and heartily endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama, is set to expire in September unless Congress acts to renew it. You may recall some of the details of that initiative including forcing all grains to be “whole grain rich” (whatever that means) and wiping out most of the salt in foods. Given the less then spectacular reception the program has received from schools – not to mention students – the GOP is looking at scaling back or at least modifying the rules. But The Hill was quick to characterize the situation a bit differently.
GOP has knives out for school lunch rules
First lady Michelle Obama’s signature school lunch regulations are coming under fresh fire from GOP lawmakers, who view impending reauthorization legislation as their best chance yet to dial back the controversial nutrition standards.
Republicans are convening a series of hearings to highlight criticism of the regulations, a pillar of the first lady’s initiative to curb childhood obesity in the United States.
School officials say students are turning their noses up to the meals that cap calories and limit sodium.
Republicans also assail the standards as executive overreach.
The undertone of the article – as well as the rather blatant title – is sending the political message that liberals are looking for. Of course, some of them were a bit more blunt about the accusation.
It’s hard not to get the impression that this fight really is less about healthy kids than attacking the first lady.
In case that requires further translation, allow me to assist. If this was legislation that had been introduced by Al Franken or Chuck Schumer, we’d be talking about whether or not it is effective and affordable. But since it was being pushed by the FLOTUS, if you have any questions about it or would like to see it modified, you’re a racist. End of sentence. Full stop. Because that’s just how they roll, kids.
But the fact is that the program has been generally judged to be a complete and expensive flop, not by “angry” Republicans with an ax to grind against the White House, but by the people running the school lunch programs themselves.
“I’m seeing more food waste than is acceptable,” said Lynn Harvey, SNA’s incoming vice president and chief of School Nutrition Services for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
“What we need are modest modifications to the rules that would enable us to provide foods that children like and will accept,” she said during a hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education last month.
Not only, critics contend, have the strict standards caused participation in the school lunch program to decline, they’ve created black markets for salt packets in cafeterias and more work for security guards, who now have to stop pizza deliveries from coming onto campuses.
We will have dumped more than $3B into this program by next year and managed to produce little more than a booming industry in wet trash disposal and the creation of a new class of child criminals who are selling black market salt shakers and smuggling Big Macs and curly fries onto campus. Even if you agreed with the alleged health benefits of all the changes (and some of them are clearly healthy choices) they’re not doing the kids any good if they keep winding up in the trash.
And that leads to the second half of the complaints, which also have nothing to do with bashing the First Lady. The schools can’t set up armed guards with plungers who will force the food down the gullets of the students. It’s a responsibility that belongs with the parents, as noted by Moe Lane at Red State.
Speaking as the father of two kids who are going to both be dealing with school lunches next year, I have a better idea. I think that Ms. Martin should let my wife and I worry about how much sodium my kids’ taste buds like. That’s our job. Nobody outside the Democratic party is exactly out in the street there, demanding that it be Ms. Martins.
But since liberals want to make this all about Michelle Obama, I’ll humor them and touch on a related question before closing. The First Lady is welcome to use her platform to push for whatever policies she likes, just as any other citizen. But do you suppose the media can stop referring to this as “Michelle Obama’s signature school lunch regulations?” Michelle Obama does not have any legislation. (Or at least she most assuredly shouldn’t have any.) It’s the same as the fact that Hillary Clinton wasn’t supposed to be working on any health care legislation in the 90s. The “office” of First Lady is not a Legislative position. Nor is it an Executive or Judicial position. It’s an honorary title which carries absolutely no authority. The First Lady is not elected by anyone and she is not accountable to the voters if they don’t like the “job” she is doing. Laura Bush was a big proponent of getting kids to read more, but you didn’t see anyone even hinting that she had her fingers in the crafting of No Child Left Behind. (Though she clearly supported her husband’s efforts in that area.)
Nobody is fighting or attacking the First Lady by debating these rules because she has no stake in the fate of the legislation. And if she did, that’s something that needs to be discovered and stopped.