One-sixth of the children in America, 12.5 million of them, are grossly overweight. The prevalence of obesity among children has tripled since 1980.
So what do congressional Republicans want to do about it? Perversely, they want to increase the size of meals in the federally subsidized school lunch program. That’s increase, as in fatten.
New nutrition standards require more fruits and vegetables, and less starch and protein, in cafeteria lunches. Some young people are complaining because the meals don’t offer the enormous portions served in many of the country’s restaurants or households. Yet the meals are not diet portions — the rules limit elementary school lunches to 650 calories, middle schools to 700, and high schools to 850.
Republican Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas propose the “No Hungry Kids Act.” That name suggests a false reality, unfairly blaming hunger in America on school lunches.
The reality is the opposite: For some poor children, the only adequate nutrition they get each day comes in their school meals. Yet critics call officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who developed the healthful standards “nutrition nannies.” A conscientious nanny is better than an overindulgent parent who gives in to whining children because they don’t like their lunches.
The protein and grain servings are smaller than those previously provided, but there are more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Children may not be accustomed to the proportions, but they won’t go hungry if they eat their entire meals.
The last thing the federal government should do is promote larger school lunches. That will lead to larger people, escalating rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and the ballooning medical costs that come with these conditions.