While the political world remains focused on divisive issues like Planned Parenthood and Iran, the subject of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act has gone largely forgotten. The pet project of first lady Michelle Obama, the school lunch standards will expire on September 30th unless the Republican-controlled Congress decides to reauthorize it. It is then perhaps only fitting that we get a new controversy about the program this week, driven by photographs from Lubbock, Texas.
The newest outrage seems to have begun with Lubbock resident Maria Mendoza, who posted a picture of a pathetic school breakfast on Facebook. “My daughter sent me a picture of what her school is serving them this morning,” said Mendoza. “This isn’t enough food for high school kids.”
What’s amusing about this particular photo is how none of the schools in the district will take responsibility for the meal. The Lubbock Independent School District told the local news that the photo didn’t come from any of their cafeterias, as proven by the style of the table pictured. Mendoza quickly noted that the picture came from neighboring Frenship Independent School District, but officials there also denied ownership of the sad breakfast.
At long last, it was discovered that a lunch lady at Frenship “forgot to put eggs in the burrito.”
So, was this an example of parents making a mountain out of a molehill? Perhaps. But it speaks to the state of uncertainty in America today that so many Facebook users took the narrative – this is the result of federal meddling – at face value. After all, these aren’t the first pictures we’ve seen of school meals that could barely satisfy a toddler.
According to Sandra Hassink, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (and fervent supporter of the HHFKA), the ends justify the means. “Just as we vaccinate to prevent illness, we can vaccinate against disease. We vaccinate against chronic disease by providing children with nutritious foods in schools and make our schools a role model of great nutrition.”
The problem, though, is that this is a program without any meaningful goals. There is no measure with which to test the program, because it doesn’t set out to achieve anything. Congress can’t simply look at a ledger sheet and say, “Well, this is well below expectations – time to repeal.” There is nothing to compare it with.
That’s not the hallmark of an initiative meant to solve hunger and/or solve the obesity crisis. That’s the hallmark of a welfare law, and that’s exactly what the HHFKA is. Worse, it’s a welfare law that provides social benefits to the rich and poor alike with very little discrimination. It’s easy to persuade taxpayers into contributing to a program that will eliminate child hunger. It gets a little trickier when the average American is supporting children whose parents make more money than they do.
Republicans in the current iteration of Congress don’t have much backbone when it comes to defeating these Obama initiatives, so there’s no reason to hope that this time will be any different. But the next time these clowns start talking about small government and fiscal responsibility, just remember how much federal expansion they’ve allowed over the last seven years.
Much like Michelle’s meals, this has become a party with far too much bread and not nearly enough meat.