The Wall Street Journal this week takes a look at the effect of federal nutrition laws that went into effect this past July. Developed through First Lady Michelle Obama’s relentless obesity campaigning, the laws will see campus bake sales around the country slice some of their more fattening offerings. Gone are pizza, candy bars, and brownies. Today’s school bake sales must instead incorporate granola treats, fruit cups, and other snack items unlikely to inspire donations in quite the same way.
The new nutrition law will affect more than 30 million children at schools around the United States. It puts the onus on the USDA to come up with national standards when it comes to what kinds of food and beverages are sold in the lunchroom with authority over vending machines, snack carts, and fundraisers. State governments have some leeway over providing exemptions, but schools that aren’t given exemptions can be subject to fines if they are out of compliance with the new regulations.
Fattening bake sales, of course, play a rather limited role in the nation’s obesity problem. School lunches may play a slightly larger role, but even the most clueless liberal can admit that the majority of the problem lies at home. Parents need to feed their kids healthier options, take the Doritos out of the home, and get their children outside to exercise. Forcing schools to comply with federal regulations will result in low student participation, especially if the menu is at odds with what the kids are used to eating at home. Some argue that there’s nothing wrong with schools offering a healthier menu plan – and that’s certainly true – but there’s a difference between trying out new recipes and being forced from above to comply with regulations.
Quite simply, the law is incompatible with Obama’s insistence that lower-income kids get the school nutrition they need. Plenty of children from poor households rely on school meals to actually get their daily sustenance. To play a game with those meals by forcing them to fit some government anti-obesity standard is wrong. Middle class children are just going to bring the lunch they prefer if they don’t see attractive options in the school menu. Children in poverty will have to make do with low-calorie meals if they want to eat. This is a foolhardy mistake, and that’s before we even get into the fact that the federal government shouldn’t be involved at this level at all.
According to a 2013 health report, less than 30% of American high school students got at least an hour of physical activity every day. This is one of the real cruxes behind the national obesity crisis, and it is one that isn’t going to be solved by forcing menus into school lunchrooms. At a time when we’re looking high and low for ways to put more money into the classroom, it’s confounding that we would be fining schools for not adhering to a nutritional law.