One of the few (only) projects Michelle Obama has been involved in has been trying to make school lunches more healthy. And as a result of her initiative, and the corresponding legislation, the government has begun to impose health requirements on school lunches which have required that greasy bad foods like burgers, fries and pizza be removed and replaced with salads, vegetables, beans and hummus.
Naturally, the kids aren’t happy. They are whining about how bad these meals taste and how hungry they are when they don’t eat these lunches. Some creative young capitalists have even created black markets in things like chocolate syrup (paid for by the squeeze), cookies, chips, etc. Some educators too are complaining that the government is imposing these requirements and they are getting grief from the kids. And conservatives are joining them. . . wrongly.
So why are these conservatives wrong? Well, they are framing this as a freedom issue, but it’s not. These are state provided lunches and to argue that the students have a “freedom” right to have whatever they want provided defies any sort of definition of freedom of which I am aware. Likewise, it opens the door to this idea that government benefits should cater to the desires of those who receive them. What is the difference between this and a government housing recipient demanding a choice in housing style or a food stamps recipient demanding a right to use their stamps on alcohol or Twinkies?
Don’t forget that except in rare circumstances, any student who doesn’t want to eat what the government provides has the right to bring their own lunch from home. So where is the loss of freedom? If a student wants pizza, bring it, but don’t whine that you have a right to be served it by the government. That’s liberal talk!
Further, there is a very good reason for this. Like it or not, there is an obesity epidemic with somewhere around 30% of kids being declared obese and with that number rising each year. The fact of the matter is that obesity is the direct result of calories taken in. Feeding kids hamburgers and pizza not only gives them way more calories than they need (not to mention other unhealthy ingredients), but it teaches them bad habits which will lead to a lifetime of bad dietary choices. Doesn’t it make more sense that if the school is going to offer food to students (a lot of which is free and almost all of which is subsidized) that the food the government offers at least is healthy and teaches the right kinds of lessons? Think about it. This is the same reason we want food stamps limited to staples (something the program does not do well) and why we want education programs for the unemployed, those on welfare, etc. to teach them the kinds of values which won’t make them a burden to society in the future. How does getting kids hooked on fatty foods help society in the long run?
Also, the collateral issues are good for us. First, schools are the first place most kids come into contact with the government. Should we be teaching them that the government is a dispenser of pleasure or that the government will only give you what you need? Secondly, this will teach kids to think ahead. If they don’t want to eat hummus, they need to learn the responsibility of preparing a lunch and making sure they take it to school. Anything that teaches self-reliance is good. Finally, think of the kids who are operating the black market. They have learned the beauty of capitalism and the kids who buy from them at black market profiteering prices are learning the pain of monopolies and of irresponsibility.
This is good for the country and good for conservatism. But most importantly, it’s good for the kids. Do it for the children. ;)