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So, we got into a bit of a debate here yesterday over the the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, described as “a bill that provides an additional $4.5 billion over 10 years to federal child nutrition programs including school lunch.”

I maintain that the bill isn’t saying what you feed your kids. It is, however, saying that schools need to serve lunches and snacks that need to meet certain nutritional standards. That doesn’t strike me as nannyism. I think it is making a proper investment in our children.

However, one MNB user yesterday said that this is just another attempt by “intellectual pointy head liberals” to institute big government control over just about everything that everybody does; another MNB user wrote, “I am thankful I live in a small town in a small state that I can still bring treats to class for my child’s birthday. I brought Ice Cream cupcakes the other day. I guess I should be arrested by the Obama patrol for making kids fat. Where is it going to end??????”

Lots of response to these emails...

MNB user Ernie Monschein wrote:

Kevin, I know I shouldn’t be shocked in a time when cynicism and name calling are an everyday occurrence, but your readers’ comments are not only shocking in their blatant incivility, but perplexing as well.  Part of it may be they are not paying attention and “reading the bill” and part may be just distaste for anything coming out of the Obama Administration or the federal government.  Anyway, the Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids is one of the better pieces of legislation to come out our deadlocked Congress this year.  It takes the lead and sets an example to tackle the nagging problems of childhood hunger and obesity plaguing so many children in America today.  It lends a hand to countless struggling families that don’t have the financial means or the nutritional knowledge to go it alone during a time of great economic hardship.  This is a worthwhile role of government – partnering with families and business to give our next generation a chance to make something of themselves and become solid contributors to society.  We should be embracing this legislation and working to improve its flaws rather than rejecting it out of hand as some sort of liberal conspiracy.

I have no doubt of the ability of your readers to make the right nutritional decisions for their children. They are well educated, have the financial wherewithal and have the best interests of their children at heart.  But the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is not about your readers. It’s about the needs of the millions of Americans that lack these benefits, are trying hard, but need some help to get through the most horrible economic conditions since the Great Depression. They are our customers, fellow citizens and our neighbors – they shop in our stores.  Maybe we need to view government as our partner, not our enemy and spend more time and effort talking to each other and solving problems in a rational and civil manner.

Another MNB user wrote:

I have to agree with your position on having healthier choices in schools and I’m not sure why all parents don’t feel the same way.  Kids generally want to eat the more indulgent snacks but they will also eat the healthier ones if those are the choices they have.  And in a world with a McDonalds on every corner (and if it’s not McDonalds…it’s something else), why don’t we want our children to eat healthier while at school?  No one is saying they can’t eat this food at all, they are just saying they while they are at school, perhaps they shouldn’t eat only junk.  And, while I also get sad that I cannot bring homemade cookies into my daughter’s school (per the comment by one reader that she can bring in ice cream cupcakes to school), I also really sympathize with the parents of children with extreme peanut allergies and would never want to do anything to jeopardize their child’s health.  It is really silly when those are the things we are fighting over in legislation.  There are so many other things to really fight over (debt, taxes, WARS, weapons) but we’re choosing to battle over making our kids healthier.  Seems like something that shouldn’t be a fight.

MNB user Elizabeth Archerd wrote:

I don't get the objections to the school food funding and higher food standards.

Don't the objectors know that the military is starting to regard our youth obesity problem as a national security issue? It's the other side of the reason the school lunch and breakfast programs were started to begin with in the first half of the 20th Century. Back then, too many young men were unable to serve due to childhood malnutrition.

I'd think that taxpayers would want our money to be spent on food that is good for the children. Nutrition and deliciousness are not incompatible, BTW.

The kids can spend their allowances or earnings on whatever junk they like and no one is going to stop that or thinks they can. But why should taxpayers spend their money on that stuff?

And, from MNB user Mark Raddant:

Let’s see: non-regulation of food, result: epidemic of obesity and diabetes.  Non-regulation of the financial industry, result: epidemic foreclosures, recession, epidemic of financial gain for top tier financiers.  Trend, perhaps?

What some of your readers aren’t thinking about is that there is a well financed army in the food business which is doing scientific study of means to make the food consumption process as addictive as possible.  They research exactly what additives and combinations of additives stimulate the production of l-dopamine and other biological stimulants in our bodies to make the food product as consumption stimulating and addictive as possible.  There are millions of dollars being fed into this type of research at universities and independent laboratories across the country.  Who can the consumer count on to regulate this industry?  Trust me, Mom and Dad do not know what all the additives on the packages really are or what they are in the box for.  The government isn’t somebody else, it is US, trying to control a market that is not responsible for anything but making a profit.  We are the market, we are the government, and we are the good folks in the middle also.

Thanks for the always stimulating ideas!

MNB user Gary Harris wrote:

Gotta love it when the comments come in ALL CAPS with a string of exclamation points and question marks following close behind. Thankfully my fellow MNB readers have avoided the knee-jerk, liberal/conservative name-calling/bashing and have demonstrated a coherent, thoughtful, measured response to a complex issue.


Another MNB user chimed in:

Well, call me what ever name you want but I am in agreement with you Kevin and don’t see this the same way as the two users who wrote in.

It amazes me how angry people can get over something as fundamental as feeding hungry children. I view this bill as an important update of these programs that have been around for 30 years, not a threat to my rights. Wow, and all the name calling is that a form of bullying? If we try and stop bullying in schools are these people going to fight for the right to bully? As I read their comments I am left to wonder if they even read the article and were able to comprehend the content or were they wearing their Palin goggles when they did. I mean seriously, “no more church bake sales and farmer markets”? “I brought Ice Cream cupcakes the other day. I guess I should be arrested by the Obama Patrol for making kids fat” Please people don’t worry you can still have all of these things, including bringing in cupcakes so your child’s classmates will like them. Were these people even aware that there were kids sitting next to them in school that didn’t have lunch? If they were aware of them did they simply look down upon them or just pretend they didn’t exist?

This bill is about:

1. Feeding more children that are not even eating lunch
2. Improving the nutritional value of the school lunch program.
I really wish we could “reserve” paranoia for things like weapons of mass destruction that don’t exist and lead to war rather then OMG, feeding hungry children and healthier food for children. After all, these children are going to have to be strong, healthy and live a long life to pay for our wars.

Now, to be fair, the fellow who asked not to be identified by name but wrote about bringing in ice cream cupcakes, had a follow up:

My wife called and said the school sent out a newsletter that said if your going to bring treats to school for your child’s birthday please make sure they are healthy!!!!!

I guess the Obama police found me in little Walpole, NH population 2213.

Well, as the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

That newsletter cannot be a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, because the law hasn’t been implemented yet!

It may be that the powers that be in your town looked around and saw a growing obesity issue, and figured that they needed to be more careful about what was served in school.

Let’s be clear. Nobody is telling you what you can feed your kids. They are just saying that as a matter of public policy, public institutions are going to be held to a higher nutritional standard.

I’m a taxpayer. I have no problem with this. As I said before, this strikes me as a good investment in having healthy, educated, open-minded children.

And, for the record...I personally have no problem with ice cream cupcakes being brought into school to celebrate birthdays and other occasions. I believe in indulging oneself from time to time, and that learning to be responsibly self-indulgent is an important step in one’s personal development.

I think that it is a shame that schools are having to be more strict about this stuff. But it is a reaction to growing waistlines, and so I sort of understand it ... and hope we get to the point where we are so healthy as a population that we don’t have to worry about such things as much.
KC's View: