Tuesday, December 21, 2010

National Review Has *Bizarre* Improvements For First Lady Michelle Obama's Food Initiatives

Team Obama Food Police version 2.0, Through The Looking Glass: Calling for an end to "Mrs. Obama's reforms," Con critic says that parents who don't send kids to school with home-packed lunches should have their kids become Wards of the State...
According to many very vociferous Conservative critics, one of the most offensive things about First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign and the newly signed child nutrition legislation is that it ostensibly removes parents' choice over what they feed their children. Parents will henceforth be forced to feed their children healthier foods, such as fresh fruit, whole grains, and vegetables, because that's what will be available in schools. (Above: The First Lady speaking to visiting chefs and students during the Fall Kitchen Garden Harvest)

National Review's syndicated columnist Mona Charen (l) has contributed "Will Mrs. Obama Downsize Your Kid?" to today's episode of the Food Culture Wars, and after numerous paragraphs criticizing Mrs. Obama and the federal nutrition program in general, she unveils an easy plan to simultaneously get rid of Big Gov and highlight parental responsibility. Charen suggests the total elimination of "Mrs. Obama's reform" --the federal child nutrition legislation and school lunch programs.

"Wouldn’t it make more sense, economically, nutritionally, and (importantly) socially to eliminate school lunches altogether?" Charen writes. "Parents can pack a highly nutritious turkey, tuna, or peanut-butter sandwich with an apple or an orange. Poor parents can afford to do this with help from the food stamp program. The older kids can pack their own lunches."

But here's the kicker. Ensuring parental choice under Charen's model involves plenty of Big Gov intervention, in addition to that Big Gov cash, Food Stamps.

"A child who repeatedly showed up at school without lunch would receive attention from child protective services," Charen writes.

So let's get this straight. School lunches and the child nutrition legislation, thanks to Mrs. Obama, are bad because they're Big Government overriding parental choice and responsibility. But child protective services agents taking control of children whose parents can't pack them school lunches is FINE?

Yes, according to Charen: Home-packed school lunches--and the potential for child protective services intervention ensures that "the principle that parents are responsible for their children would be ratified."

There's certainly nothing quite like a visit from someone who wants to accuse you of child abuse vis your kid's lunchbox to "ratify" parental responsibility. But while starving one's children certainly constitutes child abuse, Charen's Through The Looking Glass idea is far more "Team Obama Food Police" than anything that anyone in the Obama Administration has yet suggested. The notion that child protective services agents become school cafeteria monitors--at a time when many states don't even have enough agents to track cases of violent child abuse--is patently absurd.

The solution for kids arriving at schools without lunch already has a solution--which is, er, the National School Lunch Program. And it just got dramatically improved, thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Obama and her tireless team. Perhaps the worst part of Charen's blithe suggestion is her complete lack of understanding of the complicated dynamic that is poverty, hunger, obesity, lack of education--and the inability to pack a nutritious lunch, even if you have Food Stamps to buy the food with.

More reforms...
In her suggestion that schools eliminate their lunch program, Charen also notes

"Most of the parent-supervised lunches would be superior in nutrition and taste to anything the government could serve."

Again, that's an extraordinarily blithe statement.

The White House, thanks to Mrs. Obama's "reforms," has been running a campaign to teach people how to cook (Let's Cook!) precisely because so few American adults seem to actually know what constitutes a healthy meal. And Charen's idea that most "older children" could pack themselves a nutritious lunch is absurd. The Chefs Move to Schools program, in which professional chefs adopt their local schools, is designed to not only help schools serve more nutritious meals, but to teach kids about nutrition and healthy eating. It's another one of Mrs. Obama's "reforms" that would actually lead to what Charen is suggesting: That older kids will eventually be able to pack their own healthy school lunches.

Charen also wrongly notes about the child nutrition legislation that "$2.2 billion of the $4.5 billion cost of the new program is to be offset by reductions in food stamps." Clearly she hasn't been following THAT argument--the White House has pledged to find funding so the Food Stamp program won't be cut.

As a side note, suggesting a parent pack a peanut butter sandwich for a child to take to school implies that Charen hasn't actually set foot in a school lately, because the Peanut Butter Wars have approached the ferocity of today's Food Culture Wars over the last decade, as the prevalence 0f contemporary children suffering from deadly allergies to peanuts has caused a big movement to entirely ban peanut butter from schools across the US.

*Top photo by Samantha Appleton/White House; Charen photo from National Review