In the name of protecting us from ourselves, the federal government is getting more and more involved in what we eat. Some people derisively call them the "food cops" but the threat to our historic freedom of choice is very, very real.
Students returning in September in Alexandria, Va., for example, discovered much to their surprise that they could no longer purchase peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in school cafeterias. The reason, says the National Center for Public Policy Research's Amy Ridenour, has nothing to do with fears about peanut allergies or anything reasonable. Instead the sandwiches have been banned because of concerns they will not meet new nutritional guidelines being pushed by the Obama administration.
"When the government-run schools in Alexandria opened last week, their cafeterias lacked the popular lunch staple," Ridenour wrote recently. "Students could bring their own PB&Js, but they could not buy them. And, for those kids who rely on government-supplied meals, they could only dream of choosing between crunchy and creamy and strawberry preserves or grape jelly. Now, their choices are likely between fish nuggets and chef salads."
With the President Obama-backed Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, the United States Department of Agriculture—which oversees school lunch programs—has the right "to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools during the school day, including vending machines, the 'a la carte' lunch lines and school stores."
The act also "provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches," and, as Ridenour put it, "Therein lies the stick that mandates the carrot."
On the heels of a case last year in North Carolina where a lunchroom monitor took away a meal a parent had prepared for their child on the grounds that it was unhealthy and forced the student to purchase a meal from the cafeteria instead, this new federal meals policy is encroaching on the rights of parents. Under Obama, the "food cops" want to regulate food intake, advertising, caloric content, and a host of other things concerning what children eat.
To put it simply, it's none of the government's business. Parents should decide what their children eat, not the bureaucrats and not the hoards of ivory-tower researchers currently on the federal payroll.
Today it's PB&J. Tomorrow, the government might be looking for ways to really force children to eat their brussels sprouts. And—make no mistake about it—they have the power to do it.