School Lunch Program Results Show Why Government Shouldn’t Dictate What Kids Eat

Daren Bakst / Katie Tubb /

Photo credit: Redding Record Searchlight/

Photo credit: Redding Record Searchlight/

Maybe this is crazy, but the number one dietary concern when it comes to school lunches should be that kids actually eat lunch. For all the pep talks from Michelle Obama about her Let’s Move campaign and regulations from the USDA, it seems that this basic concern has been sacrificed for federal top-down policies that dictate every minutiae of what children should eat. This is the same federal government that was pushing Americans to eat a large amount of carbohydrates as part of the 1992 food pyramid. Unlike the pyramid though, the school lunch program isn’t a recommendation.

The independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) released in February a report on USDA’s changes to the National School Lunch Program for the 2012-2013 school year. These new changes required tighter and more detailed standards on what schools in the program must or cannot serve in order to participate in the program. The USDA is implementing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which required updated nutrition standards for lunches. These new standards have already led to:

GAO did conclude that the challenges “are expected to improve with the passage of time.”  (Page 49). That really isn’t saying much given the scope of the problems. No amount of time is going to fix the inherent flaws of trying to impose extremely costly cookie-cutter standards that ignore the unique needs of students and restrict local school districts from providing healthy choices that will appeal to their students.