Should the Federal Government Mandate Healthy Snacks?

August 21, 2014 9:00 am

by Jon Richards · 23 comments

The State School Board is scheduled to meet today, and on the agenda is an item that would allow schools to go around new federal directives mandating that only healthy food be served in school. Specifically, school groups and clubs, including bands and sports teams, could raise funds by selling now verboten items including Chick-Fil-A biscuits and ice cream, for up to half of the 180 day school year.

The healthy food requirements are a result of the Healthy, Hungry Free Kids Act of 2010. Passed in the final days of Democratic hegemony in Congress, the bill re-authorized the National School Lunch Program, which provides federal reimbursement of about $3.00 for each free lunch served to qualifying children. The entire program cost U.S. taxpayers a bit over $10 billion in FY 2011.

A front page story in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution highlights the desire by some on the State School Board for more independence from federal regulations, and the counter-argument that better nutrition in school makes for less obese students.

While state education leaders criticize the new regulations as an overreach by the federal government, food nutrition advocates argue they’re needed to stem the spiraling childhood obesity rate in Georgia, where one in three children is obese.

“Somewhere we have somebody in a corner office in Washington D.C. that has decided they know what is best for children all over the United States of America,” said Larry Winter, a state school board member critical of the new federal nutrition regulations. “There’s something desperately wrong about that.”

I’m going to borrow Jessica’s Liberty Drum and venture the opinion that the provisions of the “Smart Snack Law” go beyond what the federal government should be doing. If I’m wrong, tell me in the comments.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

greencracker August 21, 2014 at 9:15 am

Is school food still gross? Old mealy apples, frozen food, corn pizza, that sort of thing? If so, I’d want to eat a Chick-fil-A and a donut too.

So you serve me gross stuff and ban the fatty good stuff?

Meh, where’s my lunchbox?

Ed August 21, 2014 at 9:19 am

Cheeseburgers that were somehow frozen in the middle but had melted cheese…. that rectangular pizza and tater tots… thats good eating and regular menu items in hs. (That pizza was actually good imo)

greencracker August 21, 2014 at 9:32 am

As a food snob, I won’t be happy until schools have responsibly-sourced organic quinoa for lunch followed by desert of carob brownies sweetened with honey from the school’s rooftop beehives.

Chris Huttman August 21, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I also liked the pizza in DeKalb County at least.

Ed August 21, 2014 at 9:16 am

Wouldn’t the selection of food fall under in loco parentis? And considering how routinely our state’s education leaders make awfully decisions going against their opinion might not be a bad thing. Oh and let’s not forget how much obesity costs us.

I guess i say all that to say this: this is not that big a deal to me.

saltycracker August 21, 2014 at 9:27 am

Obesity begins at home.
1. Apply the mandate to food stamps/cards if they want to get serious.

While we are at it consider replacing cards with food distribution.
Consider using school cafeterias for family meals of welfare students
Now ya got the diet you can control, under control.

John Konop August 21, 2014 at 10:04 am

I agree, yet I think the majority of school food is subsidized….If we are paying for the healthcare I got no problem with healthier food……If someone wants to have a big gulp and ho ho diet it is their choice if they can pay for the healthcare….If I am footing part of the bill than it is time for apples, carrots…..and exercise….

tribeca August 21, 2014 at 9:36 am

From the looks of it, Congress has the authority to act under its pretty broad spending power. They aren’t forcing schools to do anything, they’re merely conditioning receipt of federal funds upon serving healthy food. Congress does the same thing with highway funding (that’s why the drinking age is 21 in every state).

I’m 100% for healthier food in schools. In the short term, studies have indicated that a better diet leads to better classroom performance. In the long term, reducing childhood obesity keeps healthcare costs down by cutting the number of young people with diabetes and presumptively reducing the rate of individuals with heart disease and the myriad of other problems that come with being obese.

So what if the kids don’t like the food. Isn’t school full of things kids inherently don’t like (i.e, algebra, nap time, showering after gym class)? These kids could afford to expand their palates a little bit.

Are vegetables as delicious as Taco Tuesday? No, but vegetables are better for your health and well-being than a cafeteria tray stacked high with kinda stale tortilla chips; questionable but oh-so-tasty “ground beef;” melty, gooey orange cheese; flavorless yet crunchy lettuce; a ladle full of sour cream; and enough pickled jalapeños to ruin an entire evening. If you’ll excuse me… I’m gonna go ahead and order lunch.

greencracker August 21, 2014 at 9:44 am

What could be more delicious, cheap and healthy than cooking up some dried beans? A little onion, some red pepper flakes, dash of vinegar and tranche of cornbread = delight at less than a dollar per serving.

Raleigh August 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Yum, I like my dry beans with homemade chow-chow or homemade Cayenne pepper sauce. The cornbread should be white and less than a half inch thick. Not that yellow cornmeal in a box cake my wife likes. That ain’t cornbread.

Ed August 21, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Get you some chow chow (or anything, really) from Doux South. Your life will be better.

drjay August 21, 2014 at 9:58 am

i don’t think that many people are against healthy food being served in the lunch room…but not letting the booster club sell donuts to raise money for new weight training equipment, or banning the band from selling papa john’s to fund the trip to the disney christmas parade is an unnecessary intrusion on the feds part..

John Konop August 21, 2014 at 10:06 am

I agree that is the line…..if kids use their own money and I am not paying for their healthcare buy all the donuts and pizza they want…..If not…..

saltycracker August 21, 2014 at 10:33 am

The #2 subsidized crop in GA is peanuts (good stuff) and we pay millions to ag industry (not the small farmer) for it (not so good) and pay millions for cards that can also be used for junk and barter and cash. All to have the fattest kids in the world.

John Konop August 21, 2014 at 10:40 am

Valid point

saltycracker August 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Apologies to those with peanut allergies and wanting them banned from schools. There is no end to the careers in regulation.

Noway August 21, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Or on an airplane. Some have banned them. Thank God I take all the peanuts I want courtesy of my local Qwicktrip!

Mr. Nobody August 21, 2014 at 12:29 pm

I don’t buy for one minute that this is just about providing healthy options for the lunchtime meal. This is another overreach that will limit the ability of various on-campus groups to make a dollar because there are children on campus that don’t have dollars to spend. The students that so desperately need the healthy cafeteria options are also the ones who cannot afford to stop by the Krispy Kreme or Chick fil a stand on the way to home room.

tribeca August 21, 2014 at 12:57 pm

I’d personally like to see a program where local school districts get their produce from local farmers. Subsidies or grants could cover the cost difference between the fresh head of lettuce and the bland green confetti from the U.S. Foods truck.

Kids get local, fresh, and seasonal food, small-scale farmers get some cash money. You could even have a school garden with tomatoes, peppers, etc. and give kids an appreciation for where their food comes from.

As an aside, and I’ll probably get stoned by the conservatives on here, France has an amazing program for their public daycares, pre-schools, and schools. Kids eat seasonally, menus change frequently so that kids can get exposure to a wider variety of foods, parents are given info on what’s being served for lunch. Leads to healthier kids (until they all start ironically smoking) and fewer picky eaters.

Jon Richards August 21, 2014 at 2:49 pm

tribeca, as I was looking up the background information for this post, I discovered that one of the benefits claimed for the HHFKA is that is promotes local sourcing of food for schools. One of the benefits listed in the PDF from the White House I linked to above:

“Helps communities establish local farm to school networks, create school gardens, and ensures that more local foods are used in the school setting”

saltycracker August 21, 2014 at 1:08 pm

While we are discussing what is good for our kids remember that the fed/state school system has a track record of building an edu-cracy. There is a hidden agenda. And there are multiple correct answers with one incorrect one, which is “it’s for the kids.”

Max Power August 21, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Oh my god, what a scandal. Federal money comes with federal strings attached. The State School Board is free to say no thanks to the check from Uncle Sam.

chartercandidate August 22, 2014 at 9:24 am

Jon, you are typically more conservative than me on most issues, but in this case I have to agree with you. The federal government can regulate the food that they pay for until they are blue in the face. However, they aren’t paying for the fundraisers and shouldn’t be regulating them. If it isn’t their money I don’t know how they have the authority to regulate it anyway.