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Got the following email following up on the discussion about child nutrition education and all the debate that’s been taking place here on MNB:

I want to chime in as one of those nasty food manufacturers who are trying to find ways to chemically addict people to our food…

The company I work for has a large portion of our business dedicated to selling the public school systems in the US.  We call them K-12 and every year we host a roundtable event working together with legislators, school nutritionists and distributors to find win-win solutions.  The issues that public schools face trying to feed our children are very complex and very daunting.  Every district has different rules, different contracts and different problems.  School districts that include poverty level areas are often providing the only meals that these children get in a day!  In urban areas schools almost never close due to snow because they know that without going to school, these children will not eat.  That is not an obesity problem, it’s a survival problem.

The federal government has created several different programs over the years to find ways to subsidize funding these meals and then state/local government adds more ideas.  Did you know that in thousands of school districts book/computer/arts funding is tied to the number of kids that eat breakfast at school?  That’s correct your child’s education depends on whether or not they eat breakfast at school.  So at the roundtable event, school feeders asked us to help them find a product that meets nutritional standards, are at least 51% whole grain, can be made with unskilled labor in seconds, works for breakfast, costs less than 40cents a serving AND tastes good (so kids will eat it, participation will increase and the school can buy books).  How hard can that be?  We created a solution that has become our company’s most successful product launch in 20 years…but this is not a product plug.  This is a story of the kind of dedication, resources and transparency required to solve the problem.

The federal solution has been based on funding and commodity processing.  Every school in the United States of America is allocated a certain amount of commodities (flour, meat, cheese, produce etc.).  Since most schools no longer have skilled labor (some don’t even have ovens) how are they supposed to use these commodities?  Greedy manufacturers like us have found a solution…we take possession of their commodities and process them into more fully finished goods like meatballs, bread and fruit cups (plus a host of other things that parents would be shocked to know was funded by the federal government).  We sell these processed foods back to the same schools with a mark-up that barely covers the cost of additional ingredients, manufacturing and transportation. Companies must be licensed and audited to process commodities.  If you think that government subsidies of agriculture is only about protecting farmers…then think again.

So the next time your child asks for a $1.00 for lunch money you should ask yourself what it takes to provide a “meal” for $1.00.  Can you do it without skill? Can you do it for 2,000 kids in one hour?  Oh and without an oven? If someone said you could have an extra 8 cents per meal…would it be enough? Think again before you mock the school lunch-lady!

The government subsidies of meals impacts every household in America with or without kids, brown-baggers or buyers, rural or urban.  It is all linked together into a system that is life and death for some, quality of education for others and just plain crazy for everyone involved.

I know it’s a long one, but this is a point of passion for my company and I got a little offended by the accusation that we are trying make addicts out of children.

There was an MNB user from Walpole, NH, last week who objected to schools putting restrictions on foods that can be brought by parents into the classroom. (He blamed the Obama administration.)

MNB user Elizabeth Archerd responded:

It has been against policy to bring in home-made food to classrooms in our local school system for longer than I can recall. Fresh baked goods must come from licensed bakeries, or else you have to bring in packaged food.

Nothing to do with Obama or food police, just basic public health.

And another MNB user wrote:

Has the gentleman from Walpole, NH ever stopped long enough to think that maybe other parents in his child’s classroom don’t want him or his wife bringing in unhealthy snacks? NO – because he’s only thinking of himself and his “rights being violated”……  My wife and I work diligently teaching our daughter about healthy food choices.  We limit her snacking options at home to fruits and vegetables. We limit her food options at school as we prepare her lunches four days a week and allow her to get the school hot lunch one day a week selecting only the healthy option. So why would we want Mr Walpole tempting her by providing unhealthy snacks to her entire class and doing so against our wishes or without our permission?

This isn’t a government intrusion issue, this is a personal intrusion issue.  Mr. Walpole demands that the government respect his rights and wishes but doesn’t have a problem with violating other parents rights and wishes in the process of satisfying his own self interest of “bringing snacks to the kids”.

Our teachers already have a tough time with budget deficits and funding cutbacks leading to larger class sizes. School is for learning and not wasting time trying to corral a bunch of kids hopped up on sugary snacks brought by “well intentioned parents” which may seem “special” but is ultimately counter-productive to the learning environment.  At the end of the day, if Mr. Walpole brings “healthy snacks” then parents like myself and my wife won’t mind, and if it takes the schools or the government to monitor what is considered a “healthy snack” than I want that protection in place so that “well intentioned” parents like Mr Walpole don’t overstep their bounds and violate my child’s nutritional plan without my personal approval.

It reeks of hypocrisy when Mr. Walpole complains about the government violating his right to bring any snack he chooses to school which in turn would place him in a position of violating other people’s rights to monitor and protect their children from unhealthy food choices that may lead to premature diabetes in a child from a family with a severe history of diabetes.  Mr. Walpole needs to dismiss all the conspiracy theories he hears from the likes of Palin, Beck & Limbaugh and open his mind to think that maybe the government isn’t trying to limit HIS freedoms, but protect those of EVERYONE around HIM……

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