The Trump administration took a small step toward restoring freedom to school lunches, and, as usual, the blowback is ferocious.
The Department of Agriculture said schools don’t have to cut salt in meals any further, can serve fewer whole grains,and can bring back lowfat chocolate and strawberry milk.
For this, former first lady Michelle Obama, appearing at a healthy-eating conference, seethed that moms across America should “think about why someone is OK with your kids eating crap.”
But schools across America are throwing away massive quantities of food that kids just won’t eat. The Los Angeles Unified School District tosses out 600 tons of organic waste—uneaten food—every week. So much milk was poured down the drain that it caused problems at the city’s water-treatment plant. Now the wasted milk is poured into trash bags and sent to landfills.
The U.S. government has been publishing dietary guidelines to help Americans eat healthier and lose weight since 1980. Guess how well that has worked out.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control says “the prevalence of overweight and obesity changed little between the early 1960s and 1980,” but by the time the government did its 1988-1994 survey, it found “substantial increases in overweight and obesity among adults.” The results for children followed the same trend.
The CDC says before 1980, between 10 and 15 percent of American adults were overweight. But the U.S. government’s latest dietary guidelines publication admits, “for more than 25 years, more than half of the adult population has been overweight or obese.”
Maybe we can conclude, at this point, that the government should stop helping us decide what to eat.
The latest news to rock the world of nanny-state guidelines is new research showing that high levels of salt may be related to weight loss.
Don’t try this at home, but studies of Russian cosmonauts, designed to simulate long periods of isolation in space, discovered that the men burned more calories when their diets included more salt. Follow-up studies found that when mice were fed more salt, they had to eat 25 percent more food to maintain the same weight.
You can look it up in the Journal of Clinical Investigation under the title, “High salt intake reprioritizes osmolyte and energy metabolism for body fluid conservation,” or you can read the story in the New York Times, which is considerably easier to follow. “People do what camels do,” the paper paraphrased, “A camel traveling through the desert that has no water to drink gets water instead by breaking down the fat in its hump.”
But in the U.S. government’s dietary guidelines, both salt and camel-hump fat are very much discouraged.
The 1980 guidelines advised everyone to eat lean, low-fat foods. “Carbohydrates have an advantage over fats,” the government said, “Carbohydrates contain less than half the number of calories per ounce than fats.”
We can ask whether this turned out to be good advice. But the more important question is, why do we need the government’s dietary guidelines at all?
For people who think we need government guidance for everything, that’s heresy.
But think about it.
Why can’t school district officials be responsible for menu decisions for the students? They’re accountable to parents and voters, and to state officials. Why should anyone in Washington overrule them?
Compare that simple freedom to the current system of mandates and wisdom passed down from the nation’s capital to the school lunchroom, where kids are now told that they must take food they don’t want to eat, because otherwise the district won’t get the federal money for the meal.
A lot of healthy food is going into the trash cans, and they will grow up to be big and strong dumpsters.
It’s time to retire the government’s dietary guidelines for adults, too. Even the booklets are gaining weight. The current guidelines run 144 pages, up from 11 pages back in 1980. They’ll never fit into their old jeans at this rate.
Governments tend to bloat whatever they touch. Then they enforce their mandates by taking your money in taxes and deciding how much of it you may have back for the things you need, based on your level of cooperation with government guidelines.
This is what we’re teaching children in school when we tell them the government requires them to take food they don’t want, or the school won’t be paid.
Be proud that they’re throwing it in the trash. Freedom may yet survive.
Susan Shelley is a columnist for the Southern California News Group. Reach her at Susan@SusanShelley.com.
New research says salt helps with weight loss, but government causes bloat: Susan Shelley