December 8, 2010

Your Kids' Diet, Their Business?

Justin Katz

The fat cats in Washington will soon be telling your children what they can and cannot purchase to eat in school. The U.S. government will also be regulating what sorts of treats school-related organizations can provide during fundraisers and luring more children to after-school meals, making it even easier for busy parents to ignore the critical activity of families' taking care of themselves and spending time together.

More children would eat lunches and dinners at school under legislation passed Thursday by the House and sent to the president, part of first lady Michelle Obama's campaign to end childhood hunger and fight childhood obesity.

The $4.5 billion bill approved by the House 264-157 would also try to cut down on greasy foods and extra calories by giving the government power to decide what kinds of foods may be sold in vending machines and lunch lines. The bill could even limit frequent school bake sales and fundraisers that give kids extra chances to eat brownies and pizza.

There's been some debate over whether the bake sale ban actually exists, but the language seems pretty clear that, even if the feds don't swoop in to snatch away those Rice Krispie Treats, schools will self-regulate to avoid the eye of Sauron:

The knot-hole exemption that might keep bake sales alive is found in Section 208 of the bill, which says there are "special exemptions for school-sponsored fundraisers (other than fundraising through vending machines, school stores, snack bars, a la carte sales, and any other exclusions determined by the Secretary), if the fundraisers are approved by the school and are infrequent within the school."

Bake sales are front-and-center, probably because of their domestic feel, but consider the scope of foods and events that Big Brother might deem unhealthy: hot dogs at sporting events, pizza at movie nights, spaghetti and meatballs at dinner theaters, bacon and sausage at special breakfasts. And the implications are broader than that (from the first link, above):

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the measure gives USDA the chance to make significant changes to school lunch programs for the first time in more than 30 years.

"Our national security, economic competitiveness and health and wellness of our children will improve as a result of the action Congress took today," Vilsack said.

By this criterion, anything that would move our children closer to the image of the Ideal Human would be within the government's purview. Soon, we'll be hearing about the physical and mental health benefits of properly executed marches.

It occurs to me that the newspapers have been full, lately of stories about anti-bullying initiatives, with a particular emphasis on homosexual students. I bring that up, in this context, because a frequent attack on social conservatives is that they create a a hostile environment for those who deviate from their traditional moral code. (I don't agree, but it's a common assertion.) Curious that the same allegations aren't levied against government do-gooders who target children who deviate from their dietary code.

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So for the folks at home, let's get this straight... Federal regulations on student testing? Fringe right loves it. Feds push Race to the Top? Down with the unions, up with corporate education!

But tell a school that french fries aren't a vegetable and watch out! The fringe right suddenly gets apoplectic over "fat cats in Washington". Ahhhh, baloney!

Posted by: Russ at December 8, 2010 10:16 AM

With this and so many other regulations... Why 'federal'? Shouldn't what schools make available be decided by local school committees?

I'm just thinking that what the locals eat is a local issue, school committees have a much greater interest and understanding of what students want, and are keyed-in to what foods might be available from small-time local distributors and farmers.

Posted by: mangeek at December 8, 2010 10:30 AM

Who is the "fringe right" who supports federal control of education? The conservative position is local control, not federal.

Perhaps this lying leftist is referring to the NCLB law passed under GW Bush (not known as a conservative except among the lying Left) which in fact was written by staffers of the Liberal Lion, Ted "Splash" Kennedy.

Posted by: BobN at December 8, 2010 10:40 AM

Incorrect, Russ. I may be the only person in all of Rhode Island to tell his local school committee to eschew Commissioner Gist's Race to the Top sign-on for the reason that it represented a federal takeover. As for testing, a national test is useful, but I'm certainly opposed to using the test to dictate curricula.

I think you must be reading a different Anchor Rising.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 8, 2010 12:16 PM

Well, good although I'd note that this blog has appeared at times to support the program.

But to answer mangeek, at issue is that most school systems can't afford an on staff nutritionist and corporations or even local school committees can get caught up with monitoring the bottom line or their own profit at the expense of the kids (isn't that the right's supposed "beef" with unions?).

I don't know of anything passed that would stop a school district from locally sourcing food - OK, if you live in Hershey maybe. I think we're talking about minimal nutritional standards, yes?

Posted by: Russ at December 8, 2010 12:56 PM

As a good yarn, I put it just below Obama's $2 billion a day India trip.
But then again, if I were a medical industry lobbyist, I'd be just as incensed as you are.

Posted by: bella at December 8, 2010 1:10 PM

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner? What's next, hotel annexes for the sleep deprived. Some day, someone will discover that we suck at raising other people's kids.

Posted by: G-Man at December 8, 2010 1:59 PM

"most school systems can't afford an on staff nutritionist and corporations or even local school committees can get caught up with monitoring the bottom line or their own profit at the expense of the kids"

And you don't think the Farm lobby in D.C. is going to bend this federal department to its will? There are opportunities for deception at every level, but what kids eat (outside of saying: no more than X and no less than Y of these calories/nutrients per meal to get federal funding) shouldn't be a concern of a team of Washington bureaucrats. I'm less worried about Aramark at my school committee meeting than Monsanto and ConAgra at the table while these federal standards are decided*.

And remember your support for this concept the next time 'ketchup' is designated a 'vegetable', because that's the day you're twisting from the very rope you were buying back in 2010. All this consolidation of power in higher and higher offices (which was happening under Bush, too) is going to come right back and kick the Left's butt when the tide changes. At least with the duties properly assigned to the level they belong, and the subsequent diversity in states and localities, you can move your family to a place that resembles the kind of society you want to live in.

* Special note to Justin, since I'm sure he'll point out that I'm pro-regionalization. RI is a somewhat special case where I believe we have more seats available in public offices than talent to draw from to captain them; a nasty side-effect of having 39 municipalities for only one million residents. RI could probably use a reduction in the number of municipalities and offices so voters can choose 'the best ten out of twenty' for a regional school committee rather than 'the only five out of five' in four committees.

Posted by: mangeek at December 8, 2010 4:57 PM

What are you all talking about?
Back in the 50's I used to walk home four blocks and my mom would make lunch in good weather.If it was raining or snowing I'd bring something in my lunchbox.The only time I ever rebelled was when my mom made a chicken liver and tomato sandwich -there was no way I'd touch that.It's a family joke to this day.
When I got to junior high(middle school)I just ate the swill in the cafeteria(think:chow mein on a hamburger bun)except one dy a week when I'd get a burger at a joint down the street.
Back then the closest thing to fast food was White Castle where they served 12 cent square burgers.(Belly Bombs).And 15 cent fries.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 8, 2010 6:18 PM

I graduated in 1968 with a NYS Regents diploma. It meant something. I don't know if it still does given that the Zinnification of edumacation.
There is no Federal role in k-12 education. Put Head Start and Pell Grants somewhere else and lay off the entire Dept. of Education. Yeah, maybe some kids will do even worse without the Feds - oh wait, the Feds are responsible for DC, and by extension, its miserable skoolz.

Posted by: chuckR at December 8, 2010 9:14 PM


I’m all for regionalization also after seeing how it works in Hawaii with 120 islands and atolls and only 4 county governments and one school district with one school superintendent and one school committee for the whole state run by the state government supported by state income tax, sales tax and licenses and fees.

Consolidated costs of operating the school system as a single entity across the state has reduced costs to the point that the state allows generous exemptions to some retirement incomes such as mine exempting me from all state income taxes.

The education system is totally decoupled from local county government financial support which means city property taxes only support local government needs meaning I can enjoy paying minimum property tax of $300 (highest in state) a year.

RI is the size of just one island in Hawaii yet it has 39 cities and town governments and 37 school districts plus the state government! Way too many chiefs to support and not enough Indians to do the work or support the chiefs.

joe Bernstein,

I remember those good old days of walking to school and then walking home for lunch only to walk back for afternoon sessions. When I got to high school was the first time I had cafeteria food. Mystery meat hamburgers and fish stick Fridays! No vending machines back then! If you wanted something different you snuck out of school to the weiner joint across the street for a couple of gaggers and a coffee milk and tried not to smell like what we ate for lunch in class. I also have fond memories of White Castle in downtown Providence. We do have boxed microwavable White Castle burgers in the freezer case in the markets here! They are still in business.

Posted by: Ken at December 8, 2010 9:22 PM

Ken-those frozen WC burgers aren't the same.They're not greasy enough.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 8, 2010 10:06 PM

"What are you all talking about?"

Joe, we're in large part talking about kids who don't have a mother at home during the day to serve them lunch and who may go hungry at home. That's most kids in my neighborhood and the part of the bill conveniently ignored in this whole "big brother is going to tell suburban kids they can't buy Cokes" discussion.

Posted by: Russ at December 9, 2010 10:03 AM

If you left food choices up to the kids, Pillsbury's Doughboy would absolutely kick Betty Crocker's Green Giant's a** every time. But at least General Mills would be happy.
I think we should expose the kids to shellfish and particularly farm raised Hope Island Oysters at the earliest age possible. I think oyster flavored pacifiers would introduce infants to the complex briny and sweet taste of Hope Island Oysters. And in time they would go on to demanding raw bars at their school's cafeteria where they could continue to eat Hope Island Oysters.

Posted by: Phil at December 9, 2010 11:16 AM

Russ-my mom held down two part time jobs during that period.You have a real bad habit of assuming things about people you know nothing about.
I get it with you:name like Bernstein=MONEY.
Wrong buddy.I grew up in very modest circumstances.Only thing is-my mom had the lunch hour off so she made sure she was home.If she couldn't make it there my Grandmother was home and actually she was a MUCH better cook.Also a world class moonshiner during Prohibition("family and friends only")Russ-take a break from your Jew hater friends for a day or two.BTW I'm not accusing you,I just think you're a sucker for some stuff.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 9, 2010 2:23 PM

joe Bernstein,

I agree with you that they are not greasy enough! White Castle burgers will never be the same as the old days when meat was ground fresh daily and formed into patties. There are 10 White Castles left in the USA and some time back they started using pre-formed frozen square patties shipped in from a meat packing plant so the old taste you and I remember is completely gone.

Posted by: Ken at December 9, 2010 4:09 PM

Oh man, it's tough to get a 'real' lowlife burger these days. Stanley's in Central Falls is still good.

I make my own, more often than not. Get the freshest '80%' beef, heat a cast-iron skillet up, toast the buns in the oven, and drop a little bit of butter on the burger while it fries. It takes about ten minutes, and it's paradise.

Posted by: mangeek at December 9, 2010 6:46 PM

Stanley’s grinds their own beef to their meat to fat ratio specifications for their burgers. Then they add a blend of spices and it is heaven to watch the patties swimming in all that grease on the flat-top grill with onions. Fat is flavor!

In Honolulu there are about 30 Stanley type restaurants that make great burgers. Every year there is a burger shot out for best in the city. There are 3 restaurants that consistently get voted people’s choice; best in city each year and one restaurant serves hand-formed 1 lb.2 oz (after cooking weight) burgers. Hawaiians love their burgers!

Posted by: Ken at December 9, 2010 7:53 PM

There are 10 White Castles left in the USA and some time back they started using pre-formed frozen square patties shipped in from a meat packing plant so the old taste you and I remember is completely gone.
Posted by Ken at December 9, 2010 4:09 PM

Gee, I spent a week in October in Hawaii and I think there were at least a dozen White Castles in the city I looked up there web site and there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds all over America.
I think you're smoking too much of that Maui Wowie: your info on White Castles is precisely as accurate as your rants about the economic "paradise" of the most expensive housing, job losing, worst schools in America, haole hating, worst sales tax in America state you seem to think it is your job to act as the Pied Piper for.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at December 9, 2010 8:07 PM

It is so odd to me that food choice is so important to you, Justin. Food in the most worldly, temporal terms. Not a spiritual food. When I was in school (public educationin the 6ties) the indoctrination you are suggesting with diet now- then had to do with religion and an overall political correctness about the supremacy of Christianisty and authority. Your ridiculous complaint about food choice pales in comparison to the wholesale Christian Big Brothering most of us grew up enduring. So much for soul food.

Posted by: David S at December 9, 2010 9:09 PM

It is so odd to me that food choice is so important to you, Justin. Food in the most worldly, temporal terms. Not a spiritual food. When I was in school (public educationin the 6ties) the indoctrination you are suggesting with diet now- then had to do with religion and an overall political correctness about the supremacy of Christianisty and authority. Your ridiculous complaint about food choice pales in comparison to the wholesale Christian Big Brothering most of us grew up enduring. So much for soul food.

Posted by: David S at December 9, 2010 9:10 PM

Tommy Cranston,

I said I would not respond to your rants but I will this time and I must admit and thank you for pointing this out to me, I misread the Google search response map on how many White Castles (WC) were left in the United States to joe Bernstein. Not 10 as I indicated but 11 states (I even miscounted the number pins on the states) and mislabeled the number of restaurants that have WC in them out of 50 states totaling approximately 428 restaurants spread across those 11 states.

I stand corrected!

It get tuff sometimes when you’re retired early at 62 lying on the beach in 80 degree weather, sunny and skimpy bikinis all around you every day with beach, house parties and great night clubs at night!

However let me quote you; “Gee, I spent a week in October in Hawaii and I think there were at least a dozen White Castles in the city I looked up there web site and there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds all over America.”

There is not a single WC listed in Hawaii and I have not seen a single one on any of the islands since I started visiting 1968 in the military so I’m wonder if you ever have visited the islands and saw according to your statement; “least a dozen White Castles in the city alone”. For your information again I counted approximately 428 across 11 states only not according to your statement; “there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds all over America.” who is smoking the “Maui Wowie”? The official WC web site:

Let me once again point out to you again HI is very proud to have the most expensive housing in the nation; Ranked #1 because the recession did not take a toll on HI housing market like it did on the mainland therefore housing prices did decrease a little but not as bad as the mainland and HI got the title back from California because HI property kept its value. FYI, I live on the poor side of the island where houses top out at only $10.5 million.

As far as employment in HI is concerned check out the monthly federal unemployment numbers which speaks for themselves. Hawaii is one of the states with the lowest unemployment numbers in the nation. Last ranking was 6th lowest in nation, the newspapers have at least 4 pages of job ads daily in all professional and nonprofessional fields and Walt Disney Co. is building on Oahu during the recession opening fall 2011 plus will be moving two Disney cruise ships to the Pacific in the near future. When is Disney Co. going to build in RI? Maybe Deep Water Wind will build you Disney for you as HI chased all off shore wind farm proposals out of state for being too expensive per Kwh and costing too much to maintain in warm waters not cold icy Atlantic waters!!!!!

The public schools in Hawaii are doing pretty good and no they are not the best in the nation but the students are learning, graduating, getting scholarships and attending universities, colleges and community colleges and that is all HI asks of them. You don’t have to be number 1 all the time and it’s OK to be ranked lower as long as you individually succeed in life and are happy. There are over 40 languages spoken in homes on Oahu which put some students at a disadvantage as all schools and NCLB grades everyone in English (State of HI has 2 official languages English and Hawaiian).

Hawaii has a lot of private schools mainly from the missionary days and charter schools. I would say some private schools are doing better than public because of the funding levels and the charter schools are about equal to the public schools. The State Board of Education is beginning to build new schools and modernize some of the existing public schools. Don’t forget, the State of HI runs the school system as one school district for the whole state so if the state funds are not there then wait till next year and in a recession that is hard because HI Republican Governor ordered furlough Fridays for all schools last year to balance the budget causing the students to lose 17 Fridays of education but the students came through on state-wide testing not dropping scores which is almost like what State of RI is beginning to do.

As for the “haole hating” (you don’t even know or understand the true meaning of haole!) there was a discussion about that in the Star Advertiser Newspaper because the myth of “Kill Haole Day” was brought up in a newspaper article. One of the columnists challenged all readers to email in factual events and accounts related to the myth. Over a month not a single factual account could be found to support the myth of “Kill Haole Day” except for the mainland perpetuated myth. Like I said before, you act like a a** you will be treated like an a**. Web link to newspaper article:

You also have to understand the Polynesian skin tones go from whiter than European white to blacker than African black and everything tone in between but so far neither of those 2 blood line DNAs have been traced to 100% true blood Polynesians. Polynesians settled in Hawaii in 2 different waves starting around 1,500 year ago. Hawaii was discovered in 1778 by English Captain Cook but there are indications that the Spanish were in Hawaii before 1778. The Hawaiian Kingdom was already established and yes Hawaii is the only state to have a royal palace and a recognized kingdom. Of course a lot of early sailors and whalers stayed and intermarried with the Polynesian women. Hawaii according to the US Census bureau has the highest population in the nation of ethnic intermarriages so keep your New England racial innuendos in RI.

As far as the “worst sales tax in America let’s spend $20,000.00 on taxable goods in RI and HI. RI sales tax = 7% X $20,000.00 = $1,400.00 (unless new Gov. Chafee decides to raise it or broaden the tax base) and HI general excise tax (on Oahu only; rest of islands is 4%) 4.5% X $20,000.00 = $900.00. So you say spending $900 is worst than spending $1,400. OK if that is the way you think continue spending. Yes everything is taxed except prescription drugs in HI including all for profit and nonprofit goods and services. The logic was not to show preferential treatment to any entity. It also streamlined the government tax process and lowered overhead costs and the general excise tax is on the seller not the purchaser like RI tax is so HI always gets the tax even if the sell does not pass on the tax to the purchaser. The Tax Foundation indicated HI general excise tax was the simplest in the nation but in their assessment of HI general excise tax missed the approximately 120,000 tourist that daily invade Hawaii by airplane and cruise line. The Chinese are the best spenders averaging $330 a day in excess spending. Hawaii loves the Chinese because they shop a lot while on vacation!

When it comes to Hawaii you have never visited the state nor have you taken the time to research any information except to take little snippets of old lady gossip blow the information up to try to make yourself look good to feed your inflated ego.

You are the type of self centered slime that is causing State of RI to slip backwards. Grow up!

RI and HI are almost the same in political structure and size except HI is larger and most isolated population in the world so we don’t worry about adjoining states but worry about taking care of ourselves within the state but there are lessons RI could learn from the way HI does things to become a productive state again putting people back to work and getting companies to move into the state.

I’m going to say this once again Tommy Cranston, your rants and verbiage sound strikingly the same as another AR commentator using a different name handle.

Posted by: Ken at December 10, 2010 2:26 AM

I meant to type "Chicago" not Hawaii-which obviously is not a "city".
The Tax Foundation rates Hawaii as the worst sales tax in America so all your bellowing cannot change that FACT.
Our incoming Governor Shortbus may give overtake it if his progressive dreams are fulfilled.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at December 10, 2010 9:53 AM

Leaning hard on the 'sales tax' is the right thing to do in a place like Hawaii. The locals are 'captive', and there's a huge tourist draw. Why not collect the lion's share of taxes from sales to transient vacationers instead of income on residents?

Not so much in Rhode Island, where the border to lower sales taxes is only ten minutes from the population center.

Posted by: mangeek at December 10, 2010 10:39 AM

Joe, I only assume what you told me: that you went home for lunch. But assuming you're rich from your name? Come on.

On the other, I do assume that most folks here are surburban and middleclass and may not know that in city neighborhoods many, many kids would go hungry if not for school lunches. If we're going to pay for them, they should at least be healthy ones.

Posted by: Russ at December 10, 2010 4:59 PM

I think the school lunches they had in middle school and high school in my day were probably a lot healthier than now.We sure didn't have an option to get soda,chips,or candy.In middle school(junior high in NY)we could also leave the school and buy lunch outside.
In HS we were locked in and either brownbagged it or had what they served.I'll never forget when a girl started screaming bloody murder and it turned out she got a live roach in mouth eating a tuna sandwich.
Chicken salad came with a guarantee of at least one bone per serving.
The chow mein on a bun was something I'd like to feed to Sheldon Whitehouse.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 11, 2010 7:51 AM

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