So, North Carolina has taken center stage in recent weeks. A Hoke County school teacher noticed that a child’s bag-lunch didn’t meet proscribed nutritional guidelines. In one case, the bag-lunch contained a turkey and cheese sandwich, apples and apple juice. Missing was the vegetable. The lunch was either replaced or supplemented with a school provided hot lunch. Further adding to the outcry was the fact that the child didn’t eat the veggies provided; she only ate the chicken nuggets.
I think this is the classic case of what folks mean when they say that government is too big.
When the state steps in and says that it’s the responsibility of the state to provide lunches for kids who meet certain criteria, then the state also assumes the requirement to provide healthy lunches. After all, we don’t want our government shoving fast food and candy bars in front of our kids. And this is where the danger comes in.
Now that we have established the need for state provided food [and we can debate whether or not we agree with that] we now have to accept that there be guidelines for that food. And assuming that we have conscientious state employees, it’s easy to see a monitoring of the lunches that the kids are eating during school. It’s easy to that administrator/teacher noticing that a kid has a coke and Cheetos and making the decision that isn’t a healthy lunch.
But that’s not what the original charter was. What started out as a desire to feed poor students has turned into a critique of parent provided bag lunches. Is it appropriate for kids to eat Cheetos and Coke? Probably not. But do we as a state wanna go down that road?
And if we DO go down that road, where does it stop? Can the state begin to legislate a proscribed nutritional guideline that covers food served at home? Perhaps at a restaurant? How about a law that states restaurants can serve meals to kids under 6, 8, 12 that don’t contain the required healthy components? If you think I’m stretching, consider the salt ban in New York City or the requirement that meals served in California that contain a toy also contain a healthy alternative.
I don’t think you’d find anyone who objects to the fact that if the state provides food, it should provide healthy food. But this intrusion into the decisions of parents is a bridge too far.