Monday, December 06, 2010

Obama's nanny state now to control school bake sales

Once President Obama signs the new child nutrition bill that Michelle Obama has been pushing for, just wait to see how schools will change. The bill directs the Department of Agriculture to write new guidelines to make school meals more healthful. But it won't stop there. Wait till the federal government starts telling us what can be sold at fundraisers. Say good bye to bake sales to raise money for the band or theater program. It will now be up to the Department of Agriculture whether or not schools can host such sales.
The legislation would apply to all foods sold in schools during regular class hours, including in the cafeteria line, vending machines and at fundraisers.

It wouldn't apply to after-hours events or concession stands at sports events.

Public health groups pushed for the language on fundraisers, which encourages the secretary of Agriculture to allow them only if they are infrequent. The language is broad enough that a president's administration could even ban bake sales, but Secretary Tom Vilsack signaled in a letter to House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., this week that he does not intend to do that. The USDA has a year to write rules that decide how frequent is infrequent.

Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says the bill is aimed at curbing daily or weekly bake sales or pizza fundraisers that become a regular part of kids' lunchtime routines. She says selling junk food can easily be substituted with nonfood fundraisers.

"These fundraisers are happening all the time," Wootan said. "It's a pizza sale one day, doughnuts the next... It's endless. This is really about supporting parental choice. Most parents don't want their kids to use their lunch money to buy junk food. They expect they'll use their lunch money to buy a balanced school meal."
Perhaps Vilsack will have some sympathy for schools with diminished budgets. Since they're not getting as much money from the states, such extracurricular programs will be ever more dependent on outside fundraising to support their activities.

Instead of such decisions being made at the school level, they will be made by bureaucrats in Washington. New Yorkers might like having a nanny mayor telling them when they're eating too much, but others might not. But once you give up control to Big Nanny in Washington, such decisions are out of the hands of those closest to the students and schools. Such is the road we're on.