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Birth and growth of national lunchbox authority

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Column by Jim Flynn

Our recent column about the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was about further intrusion of our do-goody government into schools and homes. The Act created additional funding and policy for administration of the Department of Agriculture’s many food services programs – National School Lunch, National School Breakfast, Special Supplemental Nutrition, Child and Adult Care, and Summer Food Services.
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was a pet project of first lady Michelle Obama, whose White House vegetable garden and war on obesity are part of her “Let’s Move Campaign” to reverse childhood obesity. A picture we saw of a campaign’s promotional presentation showed mostly kids of average weight on stage, and audiences of extra-large adults, who we assume are parents and relatives.

The umbrella plan, called the Federal Task Force on Domestic Obesity, includes recommendations and discussions of prenatal care, breastfeeding, chemical exposures, empowering parents, making nutrition information useful, health care services, access to healthy and affordable food, and increasing physical activity – soup to nuts and no fats.
How will all that care and concern play out in schools across the nation? A recent example from a state school lunch program in North Carolina may be an instructive example.
A four-year old pre-kindergarten student returned from school with her uneaten lunch in hand. Mom had packed her daughter’s lunch box with a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips, and apple juice.
Mom was insulted that her daughter had been told her lunch from home was not nutritious. Mom said her daughter is a picky eater and would eat vegetables only under supervision, so she packed the daily lunch box with items she knew her daughter would eat when unsupervised at school.
The on-duty government inspector had determined the girl’s homemade lunch didn’t meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition guidelines.
According to the Division of Child Development and Early Education of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services school lunches, including any brought from home, must include one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit and vegetables.
When the lunchbox police determine that food from home does not meet USDA guidelines, the school must provide other or additional foods. In this case the school provided a tray which included a serving of each of the required foods. The girl told her mom she ate three chicken nuggets and dumped the rest.
Adding insult to insult, the school billed the mother $1.25 for the healthy lunch, as allowed by North Carolina law. A spokesperson for the North Carolina authority over lunchebox nutritional requirements suggested the incident might have been just a mistake and the school may need “technical assistance.”
And that’s how bureaucracies grow and multiply. Administration of the Hunger-Free Kids Act and the Task Force on Domestic Obesity may blossom into federal and state bureaucracies large enough to make parenting obsolete. When it comes to nutrition nanny do-good knows best.