It used to be that children had to worry about the school bully stealing their lunch money. Now they also have to worry about the federal government taking their lunches away.
A recent story about a North Carolina preschooler’s lunch being confiscated because it failed to meet federal requirements has made headlines. The Carolina Journal News explains:
A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School ate three chicken nuggets for lunch Jan. 30 because the school told her the lunch her mother packed was not nutritious.
The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the person who was inspecting all lunch boxes in the More at Four classroom that day.
The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs—including in-home day care centers—to meet USDA guidelines…even if the lunches are brought from home.
The little girl didn’t like the lunch the school provided, so she ate three chicken nuggets and threw away the rest. To add insult to injury, the school sent her mom the bill.
And the federal government isn’t just picking on preschoolers. The Obama Administration’s 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act mandates the types of food and the proportions K-12 school cafeterias must serve (and sending the states a hefty bill for the cost of implementing the new requirements). Just like a one-size-fits-all government lunch didn’t fit the preschooler’s tastes, child nutritionists have testified that Washington’s food proportion requirements are likely to lead to increased waste in school cafeterias.
And lunch isn’t the only thing the federal government is trying to get its hands on in schools these days. The Obama Administration is targeting school curriculum and assessments with a push for national education standards. This top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to education is not only likely to fail to meet the unique needs of students but also projected to cost states billions to implement. Additionally, federal laws prevent Washington from entangling itself in matters of school curriculum.
As Representative Duncan Hunter (R–CA) said about the federal cafeteria food policy:
The resulting law has put the Department of Agriculture in the business of determining the amount of calories, fat, and sodium students should consume in a given school day.… The law places greater federal control over wellness policies best left in the hands of state and local leaders.
Likewise, decisions about what children are taught in the classroom should be left to local leaders. Just as students have unique nutritional needs, they also have unique education needs that are best met by those closest to the child rather than Washington bureaucrats.