Not the Media Narrative: School Lunch Standards A 'Rolling Fiasco' of 'Cuisine Central Planning'

Friday's Wall Street Journal editorial page highlighted this week's "meal melee" with Michelle Obama and White House chef Sam Kass arguing across the media that anti-"science" Republicans would "devastate" children's health with an opt-out provision from new federal school-lunch mandates. The Journal insisted "The changes were mandated by a 2010 bill that passed with rare bipartisan support, but their implementation by the first lady and Agriculture Department has become a rolling fiasco."

It sounds like the school-lunch version of Obamacare, what the Journal editorial calls "poorly devised...cuisine central planning":

The rules impose very specific quotas for the type and amount of food served. Cafeterias, for example, must feature five "vegetable subgroups" across "dark green, red/orange, beans/peas (legumes), starchy and 'other' vegetables." Schools have had to eliminate popular menu items such as sandwiches. Two slices of bread over five days exceed the weekly grain limits.

The rules are as poorly devised as they are overly proscriptive, and often the school lunch calorie minimums cannot be satisfied with any combination of the low-calorie Let's Move-approved foods. Thus an investigation earlier this year by the Government Accountability Office reads like "The Jungle." The GAO auditors found that some schools were adding "gelatin, ice cream, or condiments such as butter, jelly, ranch dressing or cheese sauce to become compliant." That "likely increased" the sugar, salt and fat in kid diets.

There are reports of student boycotts and lunch strikes, while other schools have diverted funds from teaching to reconfigure their menus to federal specifications. After the rules had already gone into effect in 2012, the Ag Department itself issued an emergency suspension and again for 2013.


Republicans aren't even trying to repeal this exercise in cuisine central planning. Their fix would let a school apply for a temporary exemption if the standards force the lunch line to run a deficit after six months.

And by the way, can the first lady at least get her facts right? She asserted that, "As a result of these changes, in many school districts—which is important to note—the number of students participating in the school lunch program has actually increased." The GAO reports that the National School Lunch Program plunged by 1.2 million students or 3.7% since the new standards were first enforced, the first such decline in 30 years.

If the White House can politicize lunch, no wonder Washington can't get anything done.

The Journal editorial makes a series of points that the Michelle-boosting major media can't seem to locate.

Earlier from CNSNews: Potato Council Debunks First Lady's 'Science' Claims

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis