School Lunches and Healthy Food –Feeding Kids or Ideology

by Stephen Bryen

I love the taste of home or locally grown vegetables and I go out of my way to buy them.  But if you ask me to eat whole grain spaghetti, I will spit it out because it does not taste like good pasta.  It tastes like grit.  Because I am an adult (it is illegal to know my real age), I can decide for myself what I want to eat.  That is not the case for kids in school.

Kids in school who buy or take school lunches are being victimized by our nation’s First Lady, who is trying to shove so-called healthy food down their pretty throats.  Of course, kids know what to do when they are confronted with something they don’t want –they trash it.  And school trashcans, already pretty full from the poor tasting grub served in our nation’s lunchrooms, are now full to overflowing as kids throw out what they don’t want or like.

So why should I have an opinion on this?  My kids are already grown up and don’t eat school lunches –in fact they almost never did, because we packed lunches for them which they liked a whole lot better.

For a little less than a decade one of my jobs working for a U.S. Senator was to look after the school lunch program and to help my senator pioneer the school breakfast program.  I worked with the Senate Nutrition Committee, and the Committee on Agriculture, and wrote many of the amendments that were passed into law some years back.

Generally I was proud of my work.  The idea behind the school lunch program was to make sure children got a solid meal to eat and a glass of milk (or carton of milk) to drink.  And we promoted the school breakfast program because a lot of kids were coming to school hungry, and when you are hungry or just had a donut or bowel of fruit loops for breakfast at home, if that, then you could not concentrate on anything except your appetite.  School breakfast was designed to make sure that all the kids at school started the day off properly nourished, with a meal that included protein and carbohydrates and had good vitamin and mineral content.

In short, government support for the school lunch program was to make sure kids got the proper nutrition.

And even back then, the controversy started.  One of the first targets was Hostess Twinkies, a sugar-laden cake that was put out along with the other breakfast items.  We held a special hearing on Twinkies, and how Twinkies was about to destroy all that is good and decent in America, including breakfast.  During that hearing there was a large bowel of Twinkies on display, and Senator Hubert Humprey, was co-chaired the Senate Nutrition Committee, reached in and started munching on the Twinkies.  This while the under-attack Twinkie people were defending their product.  The audience, watching Humphrey chewing away, got the point that the Committee was not going to try and stop the sale of Twinkies.

Around the same time, a Rutgers University professor came to see me and he brought me a rather good sized jelly donut.  Jelly donuts are my weakness, and maybe he knew that, maybe not, but he offered it and I happily ate it.  Then he asked me what I thought –and I told him I liked it.  And he asked, suppose I told you it has almost 40% of all the nutrients you need in any day, including protein, vitamins, minerals, amino acids –everything.  Naturally, I was excited.  We could feed the kids milk, some scrambled eggs and a donut and they would be well nourished, their bodies would grow, their bones would be stronger, and they would have (unfortunately perhaps) unbounded energy.

So I took the donut idea to the Department of Agriculture (which is responsible for the lunch and breakfast programs) and they took it to some of the advocacy groups supporting those programs. Quelle Horreur! Giving sugar to kids?  Are you crazy?  But said I, the kids will eat the donuts and get stronger, healthier, even wiser.  But I had crossed the Rubicon, because clearly they were trying to foist so-called healthy food on kids, they did not care it would end up in the trash.

And we are now, as Yogi Berra would say, in a Deja vu all over again situation.   Michelle Obama, the Department of Agriculture and the “healthy food” advocates have learned nothing.  They opt for stuffing healthy foods into the mouths of babes who don’t want it.

I don’t think we should let ideology trump purpose.  The purpose of these government subsidized programs is not to “teach” anyone anything.  It is to get good  food into the mouths of children when they need it most. Which means it has to be food they will eat and enjoy even if there is some refined carbohydrates or white sugar in it.  In my opinion the high octane jelly donut is better than a child not eating, in fact a lot better.

 

To have a look at what these “healthy” lunches actually look like, see what the kids are tweeting 

 

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