From the moment it was implemented, the Michelle Obama school lunch program was a disaster. Endorsed and promoted by the First Lady, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has resonated nationwide as one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation to come out of the Obama administration. Educators have decried the millions of dollars being wasted, parents have objected to the federal government telling them what their kids should eat, and the students have revolted against the tasteless, inedible food choices.
Now it appears that Congress will finally do something about it. The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee has authored a bipartisan bill that will modify the school lunch program to address some of the strongest concerns. Released Monday, the bill includes provisions that would roll back the worst of the law’s regulations such as requiring schools to use whole grains 80% of the time. More importantly, if this bill were to become law, it would require the federal government to look at ways to limit the staggering amount of food waste the school lunch initiative is causing all over the country.
The lunch program hit the headlines once again this week when Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said he disagreed with the law. “The first lady has no business being involved in this,” he said in Iowa. “Using the government to mandate her point of view on what people should be eating every day is none of her business, it just isn’t.”
The fight is far from over. Even if this bill were to become law, it’s a long way from the initial Republican attempts to overturn Michelle’s pet project entirely. The School Nutrition Association, which has been one of the loudest voices in opposition to the program, said they were cautiously pleased with the legislation.
“In the absence of increased funding, this agreement eases operational challenges and provides school meal programs critical flexibility to help them plan healthy school meals that appeal to students,” said SNA president Jean Ronnei.
At the very heart of this is Obama’s cynical strategy to increase federal control over local schooling by offering these funding carrots. This strategy has carried over to a number of initiatives, and it puts school districts in a precarious position. Take the money or remain independent? In many states, there’s no choice to be made. Schools are underfunded and it would be irresponsible to turn away federal funds just to retain control over the cafeteria. Unfortunately, this is how liberty dies. Not by force, but by coercion.