Well, it was only a matter of time before right wing commentators would seize with glee upon news reports that LA students dislike the district’s new, healthier school food. In her post on today’s National Review Online, conservative pundit Michelle Malkin opens with this provocative lead:
The road to gastric hell is paved with first lady Michelle Obama’s nanny-state intentions. Don’t take my word for it. Schoolkids in Los Angeles have blown the whistle on the East Wing chef-in-chief’s healthy-lunch diktats. Get your Pepto-Bismol ready. The taste of government waste is indigestion-inducing.
Now, I get that there are those who would abolish the National School Lunch Program entirely, and I’ve addressed that viewpoint in the past. But whatever you happen to think of the NSLP, a program that’s been in place for decades and currently feeds over 31 million American kids isn’t going anywhere any time soon. So why is it that when someone advocates for improving the food served, they get mocked by right wingers as having “nanny-state intentions”? I have some bad news for you, folks: Nanny has been cooking away in the federal kitchen since the 1940s, and whether she’s dishing up Reagen-era cheeseburgers or Obama-era tofu, it’s all one big governmental handout.
Meanwhile, Malkin does grudgingly admit ”[t]here’s nothing wrong with encouraging our children to eat healthier,” but then goes on to decry the NSLP for its “massive increase in spending on nutritional improvements — from $2 million to $20 million alone over the last five years on fresh produce.” Doesn’t there seem to be a disconnect there? Kids are either eating healthier or they’re not, and if we want the former, that fresh produce isn’t going to arrive on lunch trays for free.
But the crux of Malkin’s piece is that the Obama administration’s support for school food improvements is actually a nefarious plot to increase donations from organized labor to Obama’s reelection campaign:
the federal foodie cops care much less about students’ waistlines than they do about boosting government and public-union payrolls. . . .
The unwritten mantra driving Mrs. Obama’s federal school-lunch meddling and expansion is: “Cede the children, feed the state.” And the biggest beneficiaries of her efforts over the past three years have been her husband’s deep-pocketed pals at the Service Employees International Union.
This really left me scratching my head. Moving from chicken nuggets to brown rice cutlets benefits . . . the union? If Malkin were attempting to make any kind of nuanced argument here, maybe she’d point to the fact that fresher, healthier food does often require more kitchen labor. But to support her conspiracy theory, Malkin instead relies on this “proof:”
Big Government programs “for the children” are never about the children. If they were, you wouldn’t see Chicago public-school officials banning students from bringing home-packed meals made by their own parents. In April, the Chicago Tribune reported that “unless they have a medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria.” The bottom line? Banning homemade lunches means a fatter payday for the school and its food provider.
Hmm. . . did “Chicago public school officials” really do that? Kids in Chicago can’t bring lunches anymore? That’s an outrage! Um, no, actually. One lone principal, Elsa Carmona of the Little Village academy, banned home packed lunches back in April but at least one news source looking into the matter at the time could find no other school anywhere in the country following suit. And then Carmona reportedly retracted her controversial edict one week later. Huh.
The bottom line is, Michelle Malkin and I are so far apart politically that there’s no real point in trying to bridge the gap. I believe we have a societal responsibility to provide federal food assistance to kids in economic need and she doesn’t. Both are valid philosophical viewpoints. But why is it that those so vehemently opposed to using federal dollars to improve school food never seem to object to using federal dollars to subsidize in all manner of ways the corporations manufacturing the junk food we currently feed our children?
That’s what makes me want to reach for the Pepto-Bismol.
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