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Jun. 3, 2014

The First Lady’s Nanny State

Michelle Obama blasts anyone who “rejects science” when it comes to school lunch.

First Lady Michelle Obama’s op-ed last week attacking opposition to her school lunch program follows a classic pattern that we’ve come to expect from the Obama White House. Push a government mandate on policy where none exists, then attack as un-American any criticism of said mandate, no matter how reasonable that criticism might be.

In her opinion piece published in The New York Times, Mrs. Obama claimed that the House of Representatives, namely Republicans, are trying to dismantle federal nutrition standards for public schools that she has championed as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign for healthier eating for school-age youngsters. Her intentions may have been in the right place, and indeed, who wouldn’t want kids to have healthy eating choices? But the federal government is most certainly the wrong conduit for this effort.

While the First Lady touts a 90% compliance rate among schools, a recent Government Accountability Office survey notes that officials in 48 states have reported a high amount of food waste among some of their districts. The report goes on to state that since becoming law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has caused numerous problems for schools across the country. The rigid mandates of the Act have created a one-size-fits-all system that have caused food procurement and budget issues for smaller districts and schools in certain regions. The cost of developing and maintaining menus that comply with the Act is so high that some schools have to transfer money away from teaching in order to meet the standards. Acquiring and storing food and purchasing new kitchen equipment that schools would otherwise not need are among the biggest hits to local budgets.

Mrs. Obama conveniently ignored these facts in her op-ed, instead claiming that the House’s attempts to loosen some of the regulations to allow individual states and districts more leeway to craft their school lunch programs is a roll-back that rejects nutritional science. She also credits her own program for a downward trend in the childhood obesity rate that actually peaked in 2003 and has remained at a flat 17% since, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control.

She writes, “As parents, we always put our children’s interests first. We wake up every morning and go to bed every night worrying about their well-being and their futures.” That is the point, though. Parents put their children’s interests first. It is not the government’s responsibility to interfere in that. As Daren Bakst, of the Heritage Foundation writes, “The administration and Michelle Obama may want to dig in and not give an inch on their standards, but this only hurts children.”

If Mrs. Obama really wants what is best for children, then she should recognize that individual school districts should be allowed discretion in helping to shape their own nutritional guidelines.

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