The GOP Backlash Against Mrs. Obama’s School Lunches

A day when right wingers get to poke at a black liberal woman, institute more class warfare, hurt poor kids, and defend their corporate masters is a great day for conservatives. So when Republicans in Congress and rightwing think tanks get to attack FLOTUS Michelle Obama’s Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA) – which sets the agenda for and helps to fund healthy and free school lunches – it’s like they win the internetz. If we can toss in accusations of making the kids go gay, we’ve got Right Wing Bingo*.

Here’s some standard whining about the healthy school lunch initiative from The National Review:

When federal nutritional standards are improperly calculated, the negative effects are twofold. First, as the failing school-lunch experiment is proving, federal guidelines affect purchasing decisions at the state and local level, and when localities are required to buy more-expensive “sustainable” food, they’re forced to spend tax money they don’t always have. Second, the people most directly affected by the DGAC guidelines — students, mothers with children, and the poor — are often the most vulnerable in society, and guidelines that put a green agenda over their health can leave them at risk of malnutrition.

First, why the scare quotes around “sustainable”? Are fresh fruits and vegetables made out of plastic? Secondly, the budget part of these talks is a concern, of course, but shouldn’t it be a concern of school districts anyway? We should ask the tough questions of funding schools, but we always need to ask those questions regardless. Before we get to that, I want to hit the second point of the quote: Since when TF did The National Review care about the most vulnerable in society? Outside of a rhetorical device, they seem to not care about their health, that’s for sure.

In regards to the budget,  the primary question in any budgeting scenario should always be what or who is prioritized? Unlike Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative – which largely turned urban schools into fill-in-the-blank factories for the financial betterment of testing companies while tearing money from holistic education – better school lunches and free breakfasts tangibly benefit kids. And while some glitches need to be worked out (it is a new program), HHFKA needs to be supported, not gutted. Contemporary conservatives need to stop looking at government as if it were a business rather than as one of the main structural supports for public and private good which includes business and health.

Oh, but since we’re on the subject of business, guess you could never figure out who’s behind these attacks on HHFKA? School Nutrition Association, an innocuous-sounding organization that represents school food workers is actually funded by all the food corporations that seek to do the body bad. Coca-Cola, Dominos Pizza, Con Agra, General Mills, Heinz, Pepsi, Mars, Pizza Hut, Sara Lee’s. So while they lobby for our lunch ladies and fellas, they also have the dubious distinction of representing the very companies that stand to lose when healthier school lunches are the norm. So it’s no secret that these companies are unhealthily biased against these changes and using the rather conservative school lunch workers as a cover-up for their dirty work.

It’s in this light that Heritage Foundation’s gripes are seen to not really mean much: This idea that we should be “reconsidering why Congress is making decisions that should be left up to parents, schools and localities.” This is obviously a cover. Conservative thought likes to pretend that every human is an island and that institutions are only there to support people, rather than influence and give context. A child’s choice of Coke over water or chicken salad over “pizza” is not a simple one of objective value weight. Kids will choose the high-sodium ones because they’re kids. What about parents’ rights to have healthy kids? The PTA is pro-HHFKA, so that’s parents and schools, though not by any stretch all.

Though I find it interesting, notice that when it comes to food stamps, these same right wingers will try to force users to only use the items on items they approve of. Soda pop is an apparent luxury. Steak? Out of the f**king question! If parents use SNAP benefits, all of a sudden it’s tax payers’ bidness what exact kind of foods they buy. But when it comes to decisions by the very children who would eat sugar all day if they could, then Coca Cola and Con Agra get to choose?

Conservatives are also arguing that kids aren’t eating all of the food but that’s what happens when you introduce a culture change to kids. They’re picky until they’re not anymore (or maybe they’ll always be. So what; allow them the freedom to make that decision.) Do conservatives not have kids? Do they not understand discipline – the idea of sticking to a routine until it’s internalized?

But hey, you wanna make a rightwinger go ballistic? Show them this vid of Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman making a healthy meal for FLOTUS Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Grab an apple or some popcorn and enjoy the show.


*Haven’t searched this one out, but I wouldn’t be surprised.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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