UPDATE: CHILD NUTRITION REAUTHORIZATION PASSES HOUSE. From CNN:
Among other things, the $4.5 billion measure provides more money to poor areas to subsidize free meals and requires schools to abide by health guidelines drafted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To help offset the higher cost of including more fruits and vegetables, the bill increases the reimbursement rate for school lunches.
The bill, which passed 264-157 largely along party lines, has already been approved by the Senate and is a top priority for first lady Michelle Obama. It now advances to the president's desk to be signed into law.
Some Democrats had objected to the fact that the bill is funded in part by stripping $2.2 billion from the federal food stamp program. Congress also voted over the summer to take money from the program to fund legislation sending money to cash-strapped states to avoid teacher layoffs.
This week Sarah Palin waded clumsily into the food and obesity issues this country faces while on a radio talk show, and chose the First Lady as her target. No, she did not call Michelle Obama "fat," though what she did say in an interview on the Laura Ingraham show was equally uniformed:
Take her anti-obesity thing that she is on. She is on this kick, right. What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat. And I know I'm going to be again criticized for bringing this up, but instead of a government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician or politician's wife priorities, just leave us alone, get off our back, and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions and then our country gets back on the right track.
First of all Mrs. Palin, I suspect you would not be telling Laura Bush eight years ago to let government keep our children illiterate. Her literacy program was a noble effort, as is Mrs. Obama's anti-obesity program.
More importantly, you should know that the government is already telling us what to eat, and most of it is crap. Through a subsidy system both parties have supported for decades they are seeing to it that our food system is awash in cheap food that is bad for us while healthy food is more expensive. That is one of the key reasons that we now live in a world with a billion people starving and a billion people overweight and undernourished. It is the reason we live in a country where one in three children born after 2000 will develop early-onset diabetes before they are old enough to vote. Among minority children that ratio rises to one in two.
Are these statistics because of bad decision by the parents? The kids? The government? Probably all three, but we do have a say - as a nation - about one of those three, and whatever our government says or does about our food it ought to be in favor of better, cleaner, healthier food. We can start by passing the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (and then improving it next time).
Then we can turn our attention to the 2012 Farm Bill, which ought to more properly be referred to as the Food Bill so that the other 98% of the population that it affects will pay attention to it and can have a say in it. While we're at it, we can move the school lunch program out from the auspices of the USDA and move it to a joint venture of the Dept. of Education and HHS, so that the health of the children takes precedence over the health of Tyson's bottom line. Follow that with moving lunch from the maintenance column to the curriculum column in our schools and use lunchtime as a teachable moment, so that our kids don't get one message in Health class and another in the cafeteria.
You see, Mrs. Palin, contrary to what President Reagan once said, government is not the problem, nor is it the solution. Government is a tool, like a hammer. And like a hammer it can be used by people to build things up or tear things down. I would choose the former, and you would choose to throw the hammer out the window.