Lunch program leaves bad taste

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, September 2, 2014

They’re going to have to get used to it.

I speak of the school students who are complaining about the taste of their government-funded school grub.

As part of the 2010 National School Lunch Program, you see, school districts that want federal funding to feed their kids must follow stringent nutritional guidelines designed to curb childhood obesity.

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Schools must provide fruits and vegetables daily, reduce sodium, trans fats and saturated fats, offer more whole grains and switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. They must also abide by strict calorie minimums according to the age groups and grades of school diners.

The nutrition requirements extend well beyond school meal programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in School program requires school vending machines, and any other school-run food services, ditch soda pop, candy bars, doughnuts and potato chips in favor of healthier fare, such as granola bars.

While some school districts are finding ways to make half-decent food within the strict limitations they face, many others are falling short. Schoolkids across the country are taking to YouTube and social media to complain about the taste and how the small portions cause their stomachs to growl all day.

But they’re just going to have to get used to it.

Look, kids, government bureaucrats in faraway Washington, D.C., have your best interests at heart. They think your school districts, you and your parents are too dumb to figure out how to eat right.

Regrettably, they have a point. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in teens over the past 30 years.

And, as our government continues its massive expansion into every area of our personal lives — telling us what insurance coverage we must and must not buy, for instance — school meals are expanding, too.

This year, the feds will fund 5.6 billion lunches and snacks for more than 32 million children at a cost of some $12 billion — twice what the government spent a little more than a decade ago.

That gives the well-intentioned bureaucrats at the USDA power. And they are using their power to determine what schoolkids must and must not eat.

I admit that my school lunches were not very good when I was a kid in the 1970s. That is because my parents, not the government, were responsible for packing my lunch.

I don’t know how they did it, but every single day I got a bologna sandwich glued together with warm mayonnaise and two end pieces of bread.

As unappetizing as my lunches often were, I know now that this was the price my generation paid for freedom.

See, since most kids relied on parents, rather than the government, for food and pretty much everything else, the government lacked the means to boss us around.

Sometimes, my mother came through with peanut butter and jelly on fresh bread, with butterscotch pudding and giant oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert — items that schools are forbidden from selling now.

In any event, to paraphrase an old saying, a government big enough to feed millions of its nation’s schoolkids is big enough to determine what the ingredients, fat content and portion sizes must be.

So, kids, if your school is accepting federal funds to feed you, you’re going to have to get used to the taste.

Besides, if you think the government grub tastes bad, wait until you get a taste of the high taxes your generation will pay to cover the trillions in debt your country racked up before you graduated from high school.

Bon appetit.


Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. Send comments to Tom at