The children’s crusade against big government that we’ve blogged about earlier is intensifying, as kids are rebelling against the healthier lunch room fare–ignoring fruits & vegetables, protesting whole wheat facsimiles of culturally significant foods like biscuits and tortillas, and filling the garbage bins with other nutritious food that they just don’t like–required by federal guidelines against childhood obesity.
School officials, deploring the waste, are asking for more flexibility in what they can offer in their lunchrooms, and Republicans are pushing for some changes. Democrats, as is their wont, are blaming corporations, rather than the consumers, for trying to change the guidelines, with one target being that great patron of Lutheran causes Schwan Foods, which supplies 75% of the nation’s lunchrooms with the pizza school children crave.
In Georgia, kids resisted the loss of their beloved fried chicken. In New Mexico, whole-wheat tortillas went straight to the trash can. And in Tennessee, after schools replaced familiar flaky white biscuits with a whole-grain variety, one official reported a “severe amount of rejection.”
What began as an effort led by first lady Michelle Obama to serve more-healthful food to American schoolchildren has turned into a clash of cultures across the country — and, now, a high-profile Washington lobbying battle.
At stake in the argument over lunch menus, beyond the natural tension between nutrition and children’s taste buds, are the profits of several large food companies that sell frozen pizzas, french fries and other prepared foods to schools.The dispute provides a fresh illustration of the ways special interests can assert power in Washington. In this case, food companies forged an alliance with a key lobbying group, the School Nutrition Association, and pushed it to shift its position from publicly supporting the Obama-backed standards to pressing Congress for relief. . . .
Some school officials, particularly in rural communities, have complained about the White House seeking to impose costly food standards on districts that don’t want them. Several of these critics, speaking with reporters this week, complained about cafeteria garbage cans swelling with fruits, veggies and other healthful foods rejected by students.
“We can’t force students to eat something they don’t want,” said Lyman Graham, food service director for consolidated schools near Roswell, N.M. “Many families in the Southwest will not accept whole-grain tortillas.
“Schools can’t change cultural preferences,” Graham added. “And with sky-high produce costs, we simply cannot afford to feed our trash cans.”
Jonathan Dickl, school nutrition director in Knox County, Tenn., described anger over the demise of traditional biscuits, a food he called a “mainstay” in the South.
Dolores Sutterfield, child nutrition director in Harrisburg, Ark., described an act of rebellion by children served containers of applesauce. Instead of opening them, students piled them on trays in pyramid form before throwing them out, uneaten.
“Older students, especially, know what they want, and some days they simply don’t want a fruit or vegetable,” she said.
Kathleen Parker has another solution.