Blaser: Just say no to school food regulations

Randy Blaser
Randy Blaser

Bravo to Arlington Heights High School District 214, which last week told the federal government to take its meal subsidy and new regulations on what kids can eat at school and to go scratch.

The school board rejected $900,000 in school meal subsidies for low-income students when it decided to forego the so-called federal Smart Snacks program, heavily touted by first lady Michelle Obama, who sends her kids to a private school. The program restricts what schools can serve kids at lunch and for snacks. New rules would limit snack foods to just 200 calories for kids.

I’m not opposed to healthy eating for kids, or anyone, for that matter. Every one should try and eat healthy.

But I am opposed to the federal government dictating menu choices for two reasons:

1. I’m opposed to Uncle Sam sticking its heavy hand in any individual choice, and, 2. If the government does it, it probably won’t work.

Reason 2 is why Arlington Heights is opting out. They figured out that kids won’t eat the food, going off campus to buy what they want. They’ll only lose money on this bureaucratic mess.

In other words, the initiative won’t work. As any parent can advise Uncle Sam, you have to force kids to eat what’s good for them. If I heard my mother say, “Then sit there until you eat it,” or “There are starving kids in China,” once, I heard it a thousand times.

Mom and dad can get away with food depravation as a tactic to teach healthy eating.

Mr. Nelson, the gym teacher on lunch duty, can’t either.

But let’s talk about the heavy hand of government. If you’re like me, you don’t want the government telling you what to do. You also think the government makes the little guy — us — pay the price for the sins of the big guy — the food industry.

The federal government has the power to regulate the food industry so it will produce healthier, natural food free of chemicals, growth hormones, bad sugars, salt, etc. But it won’t. It would rather tell your kid he can’t have a slice of pizza.

Finally, the government refuses to restrict the purchase of junk foods for food stamp recipients because such a policy is belittling and insulting. And it is.

So at school, a kid can’t have a bag of Cheetos and a Coke. But once the kid is home, have at it.

And that’s really the issue we refuse to confront, isn’t it? What’s happening at home.

Half the kids who go to a public school in Illinois are poor, and 87 percent of the students in Chicago Public Schools qualify for free or reduced lunches. The issues confronting children who grow up poor are staggering, and until we seriously begin to acknowledge the causes of it and begin to seriously address it, just let them have some cookies and milk.

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