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Goodlatte pays for fat kids to eat more burgers


Ian4Column by Ian MacRae

Mr. Goodlatte, recently you shared with us a story of visiting local schools and seeing food, and the tax dollars that prepared them, go to waste. You suggested that Washington roll back standards that require school cafeterias to place healthy items on every child’s plate, as these “green” items are foreign to many American’s hamburger tastes and thus get trashed.

Mr Goodlatte connected with readers emotionally, and made the case that if the federal government would just let local cafeteria workers make choices based on free market principles instead of mandating healthy foods, the problem would go away. As a progressive liberal, I agree, government overreach is the root problem in our lunch box. And just like New York City’s super-size soda ban, telling someone they can’t have seconds isn’t the government’s place. So where’s the rub?

A chicken in every pot: for most of human existence, this was an aspiration. Recovering from the great depression and the rationing of World War II, Americans didn’t have much meat or dairy in their diets and were determined to improve this. The people through their government kickstarted the agricultural system we have today. We subsidize the feed that farm animals eat, such as corn and soybean, the majority of the crop is eaten by the animal that in turn we eat. We regulated the farm in a fashion favorable to industrial-scale agriculture to get more production.

It’s not uncommon to see barns the size of a skyscraper laid down on an agricultural landscape filled with tens of thousands of densely packed animals. Industrial-scale agricultural receives thousands of government handouts as varied as subsidizes, tax breaks, research dollars, and patent protections on seed.

In some cases, in the name of overzealous food safety, laws are enacted that make small-scale farming impractical to the point of being illegal, such as requirements to pasteurize all milk. For all of human history, it was the lean times that dominated, so this type of government policy once made a lot of sense.

Now we have a food system where you can purchase very rich or highly processed foods that have to travel thousands of miles to your dinner table for less than what a farmer down the road can grow the raw ingredients. This isn’t free markets – this is government intervention throwing the system to the big food companies. Once the system is thrown at the bottom of the food chain, on the farm, the lunch ladies will have no choice but to buy the inexpensive unhealthy food from factory farmers.

Recently I attendant the Dogwood Festival Parade in Charlottesville; in the parade many local community middle and high schools marched. You could see on display what our subsidized junk-food system is producing. Many young boys and girls where grossly obese, which means a lifetime of costly health side effects as most will never shed the weight. It was very apparent how obesity is affecting poorer communities, the less affluent schools from around Charlottesville/Albemarle were much fatter as they aren’t eating healthy foods, which tend to cost more.

A dollar saved on a meal today that leads to the U.S. spending $190 billion in long-term healthcare costs that we all pay for through higher health insurance. I propose we fix the farm bill and stop subsidizing unhealthy factory farming. Keep regulations to buy a little “lettuce” at school lunch – kids don’t need more unhealthy choices, and if it occasionally gets thrown out in school lunches, it’s a lot cheaper than the costs of obesity due to cheap burgers and fries. Once we don’t have an obesity problem, sure let the free market reign.



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