Now that the Michelle Obama-inspired school lunch laws have been in place for three years, the federal government is preparing to bring the hammer down on districts and schools that aren’t adhering to the rules. Under current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is offered to public and private schools on an optional basis. States and districts can choose to enroll in the program as a way of obtaining more federal funding. But according to the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, too many schools are failing to implement the program correctly.
They want to fix that:
Under section 303, the Secretary or a State agency may establish an assessment against any school food authority or school administering the Child Nutrition Programs if the Secretary or the State agency determines that the school or school food authority failed to correct severe mismanagement of any program, failed to correct repeated violations of program requirements, or disregarded a requirement of which they have been informed.
The feds are proposing this rule as a way of punishing schools and districts for their insolence. Too many sprinkles of salt on those mashed potatoes? That’s a fine. Coca-Cola in the cafeteria? That’ll be a fine. Is that a slice of white bread on the lunch line? Oh, you’d better believe that’s a fine.
The Agriculture Department insists that they will only pursue these fines in cases of “egregious” rule-breaking that can’t be remedied through other means of intervention. And schools have little recourse, considering that they willingly bought into the program. Although, judging by the news of the last couple of years, those schools are already beginning to question the fiscal benefits. Some have said that when you factor in food waste and a decline in student participation, the program is costing them more than they’re getting back in federal funds. A system of fines will only accelerate the functional demise of the law.
Well, does it really need to be spelled out? This is Obama’s whole M.O. First, the program is optional. Then, when that doesn’t work, it becomes mandatory. The carrot and then the stick. And while the president doesn’t have enough time to expand the lunch program himself, a liberal successor like Hillary Clinton could easily pick up where he left off.
Does it really matter if Washington is forcing our high-schoolers to eat vegetables? Yes! Because it’s mission creep. It’s the federal government – slowly but surely – stealing power from states, cities, and individuals. Today it’s school lunch. It’s health insurance. It’s carbon regulations. But if we don’t stand up to it now, then when?