By: Michelle Malkin
The road to gastric hell is paved with first lady Michelle
Obama’s Nanny State intentions. Don’t take my word for it. School kids in Los
Angeles have blown the whistle on the east wing chef-in-chief’s healthy lunch
diktats. Get your Pepto Bismol ready. The taste of government waste is
According to a weekend report by the Los Angeles Times, the
city’s “trailblazing introduction of healthful school lunches has been a
flop.” In response to the public hectoring and financial inducement of
Mrs. Obama’s federally subsidized anti-obesity campaign, the district dropped
chicken nuggets, corn dogs and flavored milk from the menu for “beef
jambalaya, vegetable curry, pad Thai, lentil and brown rice cutlets, and quinoa
and black-eyed pea salads.”
Sounds delectable in theory. But in practice, the initiative
has been what L.A. Unified’s food services director Dennis Barrett plainly
concludes is a “disaster.” While the Obama administration has
showered the nation’s second-largest school district with nutrition awards,
thousands of students voted with their upset tummies and abandoned the program.
A forbidden-food black market — stoked not just by students, but also by
teachers — is now thriving. Moreover, “(p)rincipals report massive waste,
with unopened milk cartons and uneaten entrees being thrown away.”
This despite a massive increase in spending on nutritional
improvements — from $2 million to $20 million alone in the last five years on
This despite a nearly half-billion-dollar budget shortfall
and 3,000 layoffs earlier this year.
Earlier this spring, L.A. school officials acknowledged that
the sprawling district is left with a whopping 21,000 uneaten meals a day, in
part because the federal school lunch program “sometimes requires more
food to be served than a child wants to eat.” The leftovers will now be
donated to nonprofit agencies. But after the recipients hear about students’
reports of moldy noodles, undercooked meat and hard rice, one wonders how much
of the “free” food will go down the hatch — or down the drain. Ahhh,
savor the flavor of one-size-fits-all mandates.
There’s nothing wrong with encouraging our children to eat
healthier, of course. There’s nothing wrong with well-run, locally based and
parent-driven efforts. But as I’ve noted before, the federal foodie cops care
much less about students’ waistlines than they do about boosting government and
public union payrolls.
In a little-noticed announcement several months ago, Obama
health officials declared their intention to use school lunch applications to
boost government health care rolls. Never mind the privacy concerns of parents.
Big Government programs “for the children” are
never about the children. If they were, you wouldn’t see Chicago public school
officials banning students from bringing home-packed meals made by their own
parents. In April, The Chicago Tribune reported that “unless they have a
medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria.” The
bottom line? Banning homemade lunches means a fatter payday for the school and
its food provider.
Remember: The unwritten mantra driving Mrs. Obama’s federal
school lunch meddling and expansion is: “Cede the children, feed the
state.” And the biggest beneficiaries of her efforts over the past three
years have been her husband’s deep-pocketed pals at the Service Employees
International Union. There are 400,000 workers who prepare and serve lunch to
American schoolchildren. SEIU represents tens of thousands of those workers and
is trying to unionize many more at all costs.
In L.A., the district’s cafeteria fund is $20 million in the
hole thanks to political finagling by SEIU Local 99. The union’s left-wing
allies on the school board and in the mayor’s office pressured the district to
adopt reckless fiscal policies awarding gold-plated health benefits to
part-time cafeteria workers in the name of “social justice.” As one school
board member who opposed the budget-busting entitlements said: “Everyone
in this country deserves health benefits. But it was a very expensive proposal.
And it wasn’t done at the bargaining table, which is where health benefits are
usually negotiated. And no one had any idea where the money was going to come
Early next year, Mrs. Obama will use the “success”
of her child nutrition campaign to hawk a new tome and lobby for more money and
power in concert with her husband’s re-election campaign. It’s a recipe for
more half-baked progressivism served with a side order of bitter arugula.