Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Federal Dietary Wrecking Ball – The Future of Freedom Foundation

Posted by M. C. on February 17, 2023

Those free breakfasts were a linchpin of Michelle Obama’s signature issue, her “Let’s Move” campaign. Michelle Obama received media sainthood for her campaign against child obesity, but even more children are super-sizing nowadays. The percentage of overweight youth rose from 14.9 percent in 2009–10 to 16.6 percent in 2015–16, while the percentage of obese youth rose from 16.9 percent to 18.5 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The New York Times noted in 2020 that reports that the child obesity problem had stabilized were “an illusion. If anything, things have gotten worse.”

by James Bovard

Politicians are hellbent on intruding further into Americans’ stomachs. In September, President Biden hosted a White House Summit on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. A vast array of activists gathered, waiting for Biden to mobilize Washington to open the floodgates to far more food handouts. But their fond hopes did not survive the opening moments of Biden’s speech.If federal spending could abolish hunger, the problem would have vanished long ago. “Government feeds best” has been a disastrous recipe for America.
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“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? I thought she was going to be here,” Biden pleaded from the podium. He was looking for Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican congresswoman from Indiana who died the previous month in a car wreck. The White House issued a condolence statement on her death at the time, but Biden forgot. Biden’s blundering and cognitive challenges were the main media storyline on the summit.

Biden’s bewilderment on Jackie epitomized his cluelessness on the issue of hunger and food aid. The president ended his speech by rambling about being able to “wave a wand” to solve problems. But neither Biden nor the summit attendees admitted the vast collateral damage from a 50+ year surge of federal food aid.

Nixon started it

In 1969, President Richard Nixon held a summit on hunger and received glowing press coverage for proclaiming, “The moment is at hand to put an end to hunger in America itself for all time.” In 1969, three million Americans received food stamps, a burgeoning federal program that cost $228 million that year. In 2021, 41 million people received food stamps, and the program cost $114 billion. Thanks to an array of other subsidies, the federal government is now feeding more than 100 million people.

At the September summit, Biden proclaimed a goal “to end hunger in this country by the year 2030.” The media portrayed this as the first such pledge since the Nixon era — but they forgot one of the biggest train wrecks of the Obama era.

In 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama promised to end child hunger by 2015. Obama vastly expanded federal school feeding programs with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Thanks to that law, all schools with at least 40 percent low-income students were entitled to offer free federally subsidized breakfasts and lunches to all students. First Lady Michelle Obama, who spearheaded the effort, declared in 2010 that because children’s nutrition is so important, “we can’t just leave it up to the parents.”

The great harm of federal school food programs

But schools offered “carb loading” more appropriate for marathon runners than for schoolchildren. Homer Simpson is the patron saint of federal school breakfasts. Donuts, pastries, apple juice, and other high-sugar foods had starring roles in school breakfast menus across the nation. Some school officials scorned parents who protested schools feeding their kids a second breakfast (after they’ve eaten at home) and deluging them with sugary junk.

A 2021 analysis published in the Nutrients journal found that almost all school systems exceeded the dietary guidelines for sugar in breakfasts. Among the most sugar-laden foods routinely given to children were sweetened cereal, flavored milk, toaster pastries, cookies, cakes, and cinnamon buns. The Center for Science in the Public
Interest recently derided public schools for relying on Lucky Charms, Marshmallow Mateys cereal, and Rich’s Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon Ultimate Breakfast Rounds. It is a federal crime for food manufacturers to sell products without nutritional labeling, but the USDA does not require schools to disclose to parents how much sugar is being fed to their kids.

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