Last September I told you how conservative Texas Congressman Ted Poe introduced the BAKE SALE Act (“the Bringing Awareness and Knowledge to Exempt Schools Against Legislative Encroachment Act”) to gut new federal standards and allow schools to sell junk food to raise funds. The BAKE SALE Act died with the end of the last legislative session, but a dogged Congressman Poe reintroduced the bill last week.
As I wrote here and on Civil Eats, the BAKE SALE Act and similar state efforts to bring back school junk food fundraising make perfect sense in the short term. Schools want to sell junk food to raise money because (a) it’s a sure-fire seller and (b) slashed state education budgets all too often fail to cover students’ needs.
But in the long term, who will pay the eventual costs of students’ obesity and related diseases? The very states that failed to adequately fund schools in the first place. Here in Ted Poe’s Texas, for example, we rank a dismal 46th place in per-student spending but our high schoolers are among the most obese in the nation and, by one estimate, obesity will cost Texas employers a stunning $30 billion a year by 2036. Anyone looking rationally at the math would conclude that it makes more sense to redirect a tiny fraction of the money that will later be spent on obesity-related healthcare toward school funding.
But, of course, this isn’t really about what’s best for kids or for states. This is about political grandstanding. As we saw earlier this year, Texas’s new Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, made the return of cupcakes and other junk food to schools his first official act in office. That landed him on national Fox News just a few days later, where he was hailed as a national hero by host Tucker Carlson. By casting his BAKE SALE Act as the overthrow of the federal “food police,” Ted Poe clearly hopes that he, too, can turn red velvet cupcakes into red meat for his political supporters.
And it’s not a bad strategy. By the time this generation of students manifests the adverse effects of a steady diet of junk food, both Mr. Miller and Mr. Poe will likely be long out of office, no longer accountable for their cynical exploitation of kids’ health for political gain.
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