Michelle Obama’s motive for overhauling our kids’ school lunch is admirable. I’ll give her that. Her stated claim for the federally mandated changes is to reverse the trend of increased obesity and diabetes in American children. I wholeheartedly support that cause. Let’s work toward having healthy youth.
Here’s the problem, though, as I see it: Change in something as personal as the food we eat requires a gradual approach. You cannot abruptly take away meals people are accustomed to and replace it with “healthy alternatives” without getting a lot of backlash. That kind of legislation smacks of intrusion upon the most basic personal liberty–what goes into our mouths, what we savor momentarily, what we are willing to swallow.
And lot of people are way too attached to their favorites to just adopt a whole new diet cold turkey. Having the First Lady making sweeping changes nationwide–changes which attack regional traditions–is a mistake. It’s like she is looking at our plates and saying, “Eww, you eat that?” Her mistake is fueling debates, resistance and waste.
Kids and parents in Georgia are insulted that Mrs. Obama has turned her nose up at southern style biscuits. You may as well raise Confederate flags at schools and admit the south is itching to rise again. And this time it’s because hominy grits and biscuits are no-no’s.
Students in western states are tossing whole wheat tortillas into the trash, in favor of waiting until they can get their hands on the palate pleasing comfort of white flour tortillas.
Rejection of the lunch options has resulted in all kinds of protests and lobbying. Mrs. Obama seems taken aback by the failure of American families to embrace her idea. But how many of us mothers have tried a new recipe, put the dish on the table vowing our family would scarf it down, for their own good, only to have it received with reluctance, and ultimately, we find ourselves scraping heaps of enthusiasm into the trash with the intolerable food. Get real, Mrs. Obama.
Worse yet, Big Business is pouncing on the issue, according to the Washington Post:
What began as an effort led by first lady Michelle Obama to serve more-healthful food to American schoolchildren has turned into a clash of cultures across the country — and, now, a high-profile Washington lobbying battle.
At stake in the argument over lunch menus, beyond the natural tension between nutrition and children’s taste buds, are the profits of several large food companies that sell frozen pizzas, french fries and other prepared foods to schools.
The dispute provides a fresh illustration of the ways special interests can assert power in Washington. In this case, food companies forged an alliance with a key lobbying group, the School Nutrition Association, and pushed it to shift its position from publicly supporting the Obama-backed standards to pressing Congress for relief.
On Thursday, a House committee voted for a Republican-backed measure that would allow school districts to temporarily opt out of the nutrition standards, which were passed in 2010 with the support of the White House and set mandates to reduce sodium and increase whole grains and servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The party-line vote served as a rebuke of sorts to the first lady, who has made curbing childhood obesity a priority and delivered a series of public pronouncements in recent days decrying the opt-out proposal as a full embrace of junk food.
The bottom line is parents, not the federal government, need to become better educated about nutrition, more conscientious about preparing wholesome foods that take little more effort than opening a can or box, and gradually introduce better food choices without pulling a disappearing act of their children’s favorites altogether.
by T.M. Burroughs
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