First Lady straining school lunch budgets, student stomachs

In most areas of public policy, the current First Lady has done a fairly decent job at keeping her hands out of the gears of government. For this I applaud her, and while not entirely off the field, she’s certainly set a far better example than Hillary Clinton the last time she was residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. After all, no American has ever cast a vote to elect a First Lady and they have no place in the legislative or regulatory processes. But the glaring exception to this under Mrs. Obama has been the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, where she was a very vocal proponent. As Thomas Lifson points out, it’s been something of a disaster.

By making herself queen of the school lunchroom, Michelle Obama has managed to screw things up almost as badly as Obamacare has screwed up health insurance, albeit on a smaller scale. The Twitter hashtag #thanksmichelleobama accompanying pictures of inedible school cafeteria slop is evidence that a generation of nanny state-hating youngsters will eventually enter the voting booth, just as many of their parents are turning on Democrats over Obamacare. And like Obamacare devastates family finances with high deductibles and cost increases for many, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that Mrs. Obama pushed so hard is devastating the finances of school lunch programs.

The downstream effect of forcing schools to offer various low salt, low sugar, low taste menu items is a more expensive product which fewer kids want to buy or eat. And that is hitting schools in the pocketbook.

More than half of the nation’s school cafeteria workers expect to lose money selling low-salt, low-fat meals pushed by first lady Michelle Obama, a “serious” problem that threatens the programs, according to a survey of food providers.

The School Nutrition Association, which is planning to demand changes to the meal requirements to make the food more attractive to students, found that 50.35 percent of cafeteria officials surveyed expect that serving the food will “exceed revenue” next year. (snip)

As a result, the group plans to ask the administration to let schools ease up on the low-salt and fruit and vegetable demands. In fact, they plan to seek a recess from being required to put fruit and veggies on meal trays, according to a draft proposal.

Lifson argues that Michelle Obama is creating a generation of nanny state-hating youngsters who will eventually grow up and take to the voting booths as conservatives, but I fear he’s giving this generation of kids an awful lot of credit here. In my experience, middle school and high school kids don’t tend to be looking at the big picture, with very few exceptions. And the current crop who are mostly absorbed in their smart phones, tablets and internal, tribal social dramas aren’t really pouring through National Review at lunch every day. They may hate their lunch, but they’re more likely to blame the poor, blue haired lady in the hairnet holding the ladle than Chuck Schumer.

Their taxpaying parents, however, may indeed notice. If the school lunch budget, whether handled directly or through a sub-contractor, begins to explode and the kids come home rummaging for snacks because they didn’t eat their expensive lunch, the message is more likely to reach the target audience. Nutritious food which ends up in the trash isn’t helping anyone but the occasional freegan, and both schools and parents will need more than a mandate from the First Lady and a couple of puppets to impact their choices.

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