Are School Lunch Programs Harmful or Helpful?I heard a news article this week about how Michelle Obama’s Healthy Kids Initiative (or whatever it’s called) is aiming to feed 2,000,000 children three healthy meals a day, 365 days a year. No longer will it just be breakfast during the school year; they’re going to feed kids all the time in a push to reduce childhood obesity.

The analyst was praising this initiative.

I have to ask, “are you nuts?!?”

It used to be that it was just lunch programs Now it’s breakfast programs, and dinner programs, too. Government wants schools to feed our kids all the time.

School Lunch Programs Overstep Their Bounds

I do believe the aim is good–no one wants kids to go hungry–but let’s think this through for a moment. Is this the best way to go about ensuring kids eat well? After all, how many government bureaucrats is it going to take to feed 2,000,000 children three meals a day?

1. All the people who cook the food
2. All the people who serve the food
3. All the people who purchase the food

But it doesn’t stop there. There’s also:

4. The nutritionists hired to create menus. They’ll have meetings, and conferences, and mega phone calls to discuss all the different things they should serve.

5. The consultants hired to study which green vegetables kids will actually eat.

6. The university graduate students hired to actually conduct these studies.

7. The professors hired to analyze the results and share them with the consultants.

Then let’s not leave out the finance guys.

8. The commodities experts hired to give their opinion on which commodities will be relatively more expensive by the end of the year, so that menus can be altered to reflect the cheapest, healthiest food.

What about government bureaucrats?

9. The accountants hired to oversee the program.
10. The managers hired to oversee the accountants.

And let’s not forget the states:

11. The bureaucrats each state hires to lobby the federal government for more share of the federal dollars for the state meal programs.

12. The federal bureaucrats hired to analyze the submissions by the state governments and decide how to divvy up the money.

And it goes on, and on, and on.

If a Parent Can’t Feed Their Kids, A School Lunch Program Won’t Fix the Fundamental Problem

Let me be really radical here. I know food is expensive, but on a relative basis, it is cheaper today than it ever has been, as a proportion of one’s income. If one is thrifty, and does not buy prepared food, cereal, or ice cream, one can feed a family of four on $125/week (in the U.S. anyway; up here in Canada dairy is way more expensive).

Food banks are available for those whose money is really stretched.

And this may sound radical, but if you cannot feed your children, you should not have your children.

Isn’t feeding your kids one of the most basic parenting responsibilities? If the state starts feeding the kids, then what are parents supposed to do? We’re absolving them of the necessity of being parents. And then we wonder why kids misbehave.

I understand the rationale for breakfast feeding programs; kids who are hungry don’t learn as well. That doesn’t mean I agree with them necessarily, though. If a parent doesn’t feed a child breakfast, that should be grounds for removing the child from the home. But school lunch programs? And dinner programs? Exactly when should a parent have to be a parent? Shouldn’t we be asking mothers to the minimum that goes into being a good parent?

So Ms. Obama, I agree kids need to eat more healthily. And obviously school lunch programs have been linked to obesity, so they need to be overhauled. But overhauling school feeding programs like this is not the way to do it. How about we get back to the idea that parents feed their kids? I know it’s radical (actually expecting responsibility from parents), but it would do a lot of good.

And it would cost a whole lot less money.

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