Friday, October 13, 2006

Schools to Food Police: Bug Off!

I was amused and impressed by an article I read in the paper this morning; it discussed how some local school districts are sacrificing portions of their government funding in order for their cafeterias to serve food that students actually like to eat:
State rules cut portion sizes, fat and sugary snacks in schools to curb skyrocketing child obesity rates two years ago. Schools that violated those restrictions forked over $54,000 last year in lost funding and face higher penalties this year.

But a handful of wealthy school districts have rejected the rules altogether in some high schools, saying student choice and healthier cafeteria budgets outweigh efforts to force teenagers to eat right.

Allen, Frisco, Carroll, Coppell and, most recently, Plano are among the districts that give up government money for high school cafeterias for freedom from the food police.

They offer what they say older kids demand – the good and the bad – to make ends meet.

And in response, business is booming.
In many cases, these schools have ended up making considerably more money in revenue than they give up by violating the Food Police Rules:
In the Frisco district, the decision was a no-brainer, said Child Nutrition Director Lena Wilson.

"We looked at the cost," she said. "We would lose more money by adopting those restrictions than we would get in reimbursements."

The nutrition department made a $109,000 profit in 2003-04 from selling just four items: candy bars, sports drinks, extra-large cookies and large muffins.

It forfeited $81,000 in federal reimbursements that year.
. And no, it's not that everything should revolve around profit, but rather that people should have a few more choices than the government regulations allow. Go down to the bottom of the article linked above and you'll see what I mean; it contains a table of the various "offenses" that caused districts to forfeit some of their federal funding. (To name a few: "Elementary teacher gave students fruit drinks for lunch," "Cookies too large," "portion size violation," "sales of Skittles," and my personal favorite, "Gummi bears shared by student." Oh, brother...)

Granted, a lot of "experts" are none too happy about these renegade districts:
LeAnn Kridelbaugh, a physician nutrition specialist at Children's Medical Center Dallas, said schools should not compromise student health to stay afloat financially.
"I'm sure they could make a lot of money selling cigarettes in the schools, too," she said.
Obesity rates for adolescents have tripled since 1980 and doubled for younger children. Even older students need to be protected from themselves sometimes, Dr. Kridelbaugh said.
Whoooooooa. Hang on. Stop everything for a second. The government has no business making laws that "protect people from themselves." Provide for the national defense, give some incentive to "make the trains run on time," things like that....but protecting people from themselves? Uh-uh. Give people the information with which they can make intelligent, informed choices, but if they still don't....well, that's their own fault, and the government should keep its big nose out of it. It's time for a return to personal responsibilty in this country (does this make me a libertarian yet?), and that means no more suing McDonald's because you're fat.

So I say "bravo" to those renegade districts, because they're really doing their students a favor. After all, this is basically what it all comes down to in the schools, in the cafeteria and elsewhere: Teaching students to make good choices, but being aware that some people will not do so, and teaching them to live with the results of those choices. Otherwise, how are they ever truly going to learn?

Running Cat-fighting with scissors: A couple of Iowa teenagers are in trouble after they went after each other in a fit of haircut rage.

That's RWI for short: A woman in Georgia faces a charge of drunk driving...on horseback.


Gary P. said...

I too like it when entities turn down state or federal money in order to retain local control over things. IIRC, Louisiana refused federal highway money for a few years in the early 90's or so by holding off on raising their drinking age from 18 to 21.

I was rolling my eyes though at the angle that it's only the RICH SCHOOL DISTRICTS that can "afford" to not suck at the teat of the state.

Kev said...

Gary--re the Louisiana highway thing: I went on a roadtrip to New Orleans for spring break in '96 (and yeah, the roads were pretty bad, so the refusal of the federal money did come at a cost), and I got a kick out of how their drinking age went back and forth depending on what event might have been in town at the time. For example, that week, the SEC basketball tournament was at the Superdome, and the (obviously easily changeable) sign over Pat O's said "YOU MUST BE 18 YEARS OLD TO ENTER" while other Bourbon Street bars had signs reading "WELCOME 18 YEAR OLD ADULTS" and things like that. And later on in the week, when the hoops fans had gone home, Pat's minimum age had returned to 21 again...

Birdzilla said...

What they realy should do if any budget cuts come up is the just elminate the wheat germ inhaling nutrition freaks and save the state and school districts a bundle