The Obama administration’s unquenchable ambition to replace Americans’ own choices with those made by bureaucrats in Washington has taken yet another stupid turn, it appears. Either that, or the federal school lunch policy is so confusing that city officials cannot figure out how to serve milk.
“We’re not able to offer the free milk-only option. In order to have the free milk, the students are required to choose the required meal component,” Manchester Superintendent Debra Livingston told the Board of School Committee on Monday night. Manchester has long offered milk free of charge to its students. Washington reimburses districts for the price of milk — and everything else offered in the basic school lunch — as part of the National School Lunch Program. But now the superintendent says the district is no longer allowed to give free milk to kids who do not buy an entire lunch. What gives?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture changed the school lunch program last year to require that schools offer — and kids take — healthier foods. The rules actually state that children “must” take fruits, vegetables and whole grains if districts are to be reimbursed by Washington for the meals.
Superintendent Livingston could not provide the details of the milk policy. It is not clear why kids have to buy a whole meal to get a free milk. Maybe it is not clear because the 2012 changes that take effect this school year were so sweeping. They consume 81 pages of the Federal Register and dictate down to the ounce what students have to put on their plates each day. In response, kids are throwing away huge quantities of healthy food. To address that, the rules state that schools may set up a table where kids can swap portions.
So... what is the point of requiring children to take balanced portions if they can just swap them out after leaving the line? Never mind. This is the same federal government that finances the First Lady’s fanciful “Drink Up” campaign to encourage Americans to drink water instead of beverages that contain calories, but which also imposes this school lunch rule: “water may not be offered in place of fluid milk as part of the reimbursable meal....”
Trying to dictate school lunches to this level of detail from Washington creates problems of the sort Manchester is experiencing. All of this sounds so familiar. At least Obama never said, “If you like your lunch, you can keep it.”