My article as originally published in American Thinker:
I’ve been highly critical of the ever expanding nanny-state that erodes our freedoms, whether in the form of soda bans, light bulb bans, plastic bag bans or even the new school lunch regulations, signed by President Obama. It’s this latter policy that is to blame for my eight-year-old son coming home from school hungry a few weeks back.
My son is a little picky when it comes to certain foods. He’ll devour steak, seafood and many fruits and vegetables but if you ask him to take a sip of milk or eat something with cheese on it — forget it. He claims that dairy bothers his stomach, but will then go and eat ice cream or a slice of cheese pizza and claim that “that’s different.” The point is, he’s eight, has some quirky eating habits and it’s the job of my wife and I to understand his habits and to make sure he gets the nutrition he needs within the parameters that work for him.
One morning during the first week back at school we looked at the new lunch menu and tacos were being served that day. He loves the school’s tacos and will only eat them because he has always been free to order them the way that he likes — without the cheese.
This time was different though. When he asked for his taco without the cheese he was told by the server that he had no choice but to have the cheese (no, he’s not an exchange student currently studying in Cuba). This was never a problem in years past and he was truly confused as to what to do and ended up eating only on an apple, which explains why he came home “starving” that afternoon.
My wife and I asked him if maybe the tacos were now pre-made with the cheese and told him that if so, there was nothing that could be done about it. Sometimes being picky will limit your choices in life. But this wasn’t the case as the cheese was applied just before serving, as it always had been, according to my son.
My wife put a call in to the principal and it turns out that the culprit was Obama’s new Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act. According to my son’s principal, the problem wasn’t that he wanted his taco without the cheese; the problem was (assuming she fully understands all of the new regulations) that it was, and is, virtually impossible for the food servers to be able keep track of the children who pay for their lunches verses the ones who receive their lunches for free or at reduced rates with a taxpayer subsidy.
The school could face disciplinary action if caught giving non-compliant meals to students who are in the National School Lunch Program. That meddling cheese was needed to meet the dairy requirements contained within the new law. I understand the principal’s concern given another school recently received a $15,000 fine for serving soda during lunch time, which is in violation of federal law. So how much would an illegal cheese-free taco cost the school?
Aside from the obvious government overreach, how is it “healthy” for kids to be forcefully offered food that they either won’t accept or just end up throwing it in the trash? And what about children who are lactose intolerant?
My wife raised a stink about it so the principal said that she would tell the servers that our son is allowed to get his food the way he likes it by giving his name. If more parents complain I can see where it would get too complicated to continue though. But thanks to my wife, the lunch servers now know who my son is and he will get his taco the way he wants it next time.
Does this “special” treatment now make my son a crony diner or will these now be considered black market tacos? In any case, comply-or-starve big government top-down control creates a wasteful, unnatural environment that even a child finds hard to swallow.