President Obama signed the Child Nutrition bill last month, and yesterday the US Department of Agriculture laid out its recommendations for government subsided school lunches. These recommendations come months early in hopes the public can debate amongst themselves, since they will not be able to formally comment to the USDA until March.
Most of the USDA’s guidelines read like a Jenny Craig weight loss plan for young food addicts, as the government will cut school lunches caloric makeup to between 550 to 650 for primary school students, 600 to 700 for middle school, and 750 to 850 for high school students. Also included in the government’s plan is switching some of the grain products from the polished white version to the marginally better whole grain variety.
The questions that arise about the new school lunches are causing the usual stir on Capitol Hill. The highly partisan debate include some from the right, like GA representative Paul Brown, who thinks the program is not about the children but another intrusion of the “all-powerful” government into people’s privacy.
In a New York Times report Brown was quoted as saying, “This bill is not about child nutrition. It’s not about healthy kids. It’s about an expansion of the federal government, more and more control from Washington, borrowing more money and putting our children in greater debt.”
Granted, the bill does have a lot of questionable aspects, but none should be confused with federal overreach. Consequently, the bill’s high price for adding more nutritious items to average school menu, like the mandate for at least one serving of fruits and vegetables for primary and middle school students, will come with some outrageous cuts to food stamps for impoverished citizens. Talk about a win-lose situation.
The bill will also fully subsidize school lunches for children that qualify for Medicaid, which will help over 100,000 children. Conversely, school lunch prices will increase for the nation’s middle class students that come from families that make over roughly $40,000 for a family of four.
For high school students, their vending machines will also see a change in selections. High caloric and nutritionally defunct food will be replaced with some-what healthier fruit-based snacks.
The Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, was quoted referring to the the new guidelines as imperative to national security. Vilsack seemed concerned that children were at such a high risk for Type 2 diabetes and obesity that by the time kids reach graduation age, they will not be fit enough for military service.
With all the talk on Capitol Hill about cuts, spending, and military service in relation to helping children who, for the part, have no say in the matter, no elected official or “expert” mentioned that the silent killer might just be our military spending. While lawmakers fight and squabble over the money that we clearly do not have to help children live a better life–and because we, as adults, do not have the courage to stand up and fight for reductions in military spending–common sense approaches like this measure will continue to divert attention away from our nation’s real addiction, death and spending money.