The story of a schoolteacher ripping away a 4-year-old girl’s carefully packed lunch from home–containing a turkey sandwich, banana, and snack bag of chips–to make the girl eat school-served chicken nuggets has ripped through the talk show circuit and prompted angry letters to the U.S. Ag Department from her family’s elected representatives.
Now the school principal and Associated Press have come in to set the story straight. Except that learning more facts makes the truth uglier.
The child’s teacher mistakenly sent the girl to the wrong school line at lunch, said Hoke County Schools Assistant Superintendent Bob Barnes yesterday. Instead of handing her a carton of milk to “round out her lunch,” the teacher wrongly made the girl eat the entire school lunch.
“We’re not trying to force government down anybody’s throat,” Barnes said. “All we’re trying to do is make sure that our children get a good education and a nutritious meal every day. It comes back to: We had an employee who made a mistake.”
None of this actually alleviates the central, troubling issue that school lunches bring up. In the first place, if this teacher, school, and principal didn’t aim to stuff food down the girl’s throat and displace her family’s care for her, that’s precisely what the National School Lunch program does. Ninety percent of children at this little girl’s school receive free or reduced federal lunch (which, because there ain’t no such thing as a yada yada, means taxpayers pay for these lunches).
Schools get financial bonuses from the federal government for signing as many kids up for these programs as possible. No, I’m not kidding or making that up. The ostensible reason is “we don’t want any kid to go hungry,” but this perpetuates the idea that, if you happen to have less money than a lot of people, the government should take care of you, thus perpetuating also government dependency and increasing taxpayer costs.
Michelle Obama’s 2010 “healthy eating” legislation not only drastically increased school lunch costs by forcing schools to comply with artificial nutritional mandates (can’t have more than two servings of corn, potatoes, or peas per week, for example, or serve 2 percent milk, which makes MY house non-Michelle-approved though we make nearly all our meals from scratch and this former farm kid gobbles whole milk like it’s ice cream), it will by 2015 require all states to let districts opt-in to a program that will automatically enroll every single child in federally subsidized free lunch.
The feds spend $11 billion a year on school lunches. Food welfare is the largest component of the Ag Department’s budget (all those farm subsidies you hear about? Yeah, lots of that is food welfare). These programs double- and even triple-charge taxpayers for a program that displaces parents as, well, parents.
This little girl’s story may be small, but it hits on something much bigger: The government is angling for a job promotion from nanny state to mommy state.