Some years ago, my fellow comedian Tim Slagle and I produced short comedy bits for a libertarian talk show.  In one bit, the health-care police arrested a man for sneaking coconut oil into a movie theater to put on his popcorn.  (I’ve embedded it at the end of the post.)

The trouble with using comic exaggeration to make fun of nanny-state busybodies is that reality keeps catching up.  What starts as parody ends up sounding like a straight news report some years later.

Just look at what the nanny-staters have been up to lately.  First, a councilman in New York City proposes banning toys from Happy Meals that don’t meet his definition of “healthy.”  Some commenters on the blog suggested I find a picture of that councilman.  So I did:

This is the guy who considers himself qualified to stand between me and McDonald’s so I don’t let a cheap toy lure me into buying meals he doesn’t think my kids should eat.  And he’s doing this (as Jacob Sullum would say) apparently without embarrassment.

Amazing.  The councilman should get together with Kelly Brownell and form a two-man comedy team called Morbidly Obese Men Who Know What You Should Eat. I’ll volunteer to be their opening act. I bet the back-stage spread before shows would be terrific.

Note to nanny-state busybodies everywhere:  if you’re tempted to legislate other people’s food choices and you happen to look like a character from a bad Eddie Murphy movie, it might be wise to just keep your mouth shut.  Yes, I mean that in more than one way.

On the heels of The Nutty Professor vs. Ronald McDonald in New York, today we learned that a public school in Chicago is banning lunches brought from home.  (This story produced an all-time record for the number of emails I received from blog readers.)  I’m sure you can guess the reason:  the school is just trying to make sure the little tykes are eating nutritious meals, doncha know:

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.  “Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” Carmona said. “It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.”

Well, Ms. Carmona, it’s really generous of you to allow parents to decide what their kids will eat if there’s a medical issue involved.  But for everyone else, here’s how it works out:

1.    Your child is required by law to attend school.
2.    Your child is not allowed to bring lunch from home.

Therefore …

3.    Five days per week, nine months out of the year, the government will decide what your kid will eat for one-third of his meals.  If the government wants to stuff your kid with gluten, lectins, vegetable oils and fructose, that’s how it’s going to be – unless your kid is willing to skip lunch entirely.

What amazes me – and frankly scares me, too – are the people who don’t have a problem with this policy.

Parent Miguel Medina said he thinks the “no home lunch policy” is a good one. “The school food is very healthy,” he said, “and when they bring the food from home, there is no control over the food.”

Slamming.  Head.  On.  Desk.

Mr. Medina, if you think the school food is “very healthy,” here’s what you do:  tell your kids to eat the school food.  Then you’re making a choice as a parent … cool concept, eh?  In fact, it’s such a cool concept, perhaps we should extend it to other parents as well – including those who would rather pack a lunch for their kids, whether you approve of that lunch or not.

The pervasiveness of the “I think it’s a good idea, so let’s impose it on everyone” attitude in some cities these days just blows my mind.  It’s as if hardly anyone has ever heard the lovely phrase “It’s a free country.”  (Perhaps because in so many ways, it’s not anymore.)

In its never-ending quest to impose its dietary preferences on schoolkids, the USDA placed even greater restrictions this year on saturated fat, salt, and other nutrients that actually make a meal worth eating.  Here’s the result:

At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.

I can’t quite figure out if the reporter actually sees the connection between “improved the nutritional quality” and “drop-off in meal participation.”  No matter, though.  The school is going to impose participation, so problem solved.  Nutty Professor vs. Ronald McDonald in New York, followed by a remake of The Shawshank Redemption in Chicago.

“Excuse me, are you Red?”

“Who wants to know?”

“Well, I heard you’re the guy who can get things for people.”

“Maybe.  What are you lookin’ to get?”

“The red ones … Red.”

“I don’t got any red ones.  I can get you uppers, downers, coke, smack or weed.  Take your pick.”

“No, not those red ones.  Red spicy ones.  You know, the corn chips.”

“Corn chips?  Look, newbie, I can get you all the drugs you want, but I’m not a magician, okay?  The principal catches you with a salty snack, we all wind up in the hole.”

Last year, when my daughter’s preschool informed us (reluctantly) that we had to pack a government-approved lunch on the day state inspectors were visiting, we decided to go ahead and put those oh-so-important grain products in her lunchbox.  The alternative was to stick a four-year-old in the middle of a fight she didn’t start.  But if the local elementary school even thinks about requiring my daughters to eat their awful cafeteria lunches, I will raise holy hell.

Fortunately, given the culture in this part of Tennessee, I’d probably have plenty of other parents joining me.  Some of them might even be packing … and I’m not talking about a lunch.

The Slagle-Naughton Report bit from long ago:

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80 Responses to “This Will Make You Lose Your Lunch”
  1. Ashley says:

    If my school tried to do that…I’m pretty sure all of a sudden my gluten intolerance would magically turn into a terrible allergy xD
    Or else I just wouldn’t eat lunch. I don’t always eat lunch anyways.

    Heck, I’d paint red dots on the girls’ faces and swear it’s a grain allergy.

  2. JacquiW from NZ says:

    Children’s lunches seem to be a real easy target for fat arsed politicians trying to prove they are doing something to reduce obesity other than sort out their own diets.

    My sympathies to all Americans from a wonderfully free New Zealand! This is why my American husband lives here.

    New Zealand and Australia have jumped ahead of the U.S. on the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. Pretty sad, since the U.S. was founded on that very principle. That’s the result of sheeple not raising hell each time the politicians told us, “You know, if you let us take away just this one wee bit of freedom, we’ll give you some goodies in return.”

  3. Timespike says:

    Sure, let’s just mandate EVERYTHING. Because that’s what a free society does, right? Oh, wait, no, that’s the OPPOSITE of what a free society does. I hate those busybodies that would ban lunch from home, and I REALLY hate that I have to share a state with them! (Get me out of here!)

    That’s one of the many reasons I left the People’s Republic of California. The politicians there believe citizens are a government-support system.

  4. Galina L. says:

    Imagine, Tom, if it would be the low in America – no home lunches. Then immediately people who are interested in what their children eat (definitely not the whole country) would bring doctor’s notes for allergic children and just notes about food limitations for believe reasons – Jewish , vegan, Adventist…I am pretty much sure religious beliefs would be taken into consideration. What about rational beliefs? Why is it well accepted to accommodate irrational food choices based on religion and fight ones based on science? Is it time to declare a healthy life style to be religion, and whatever the person believes is healthy consider to be his or her spiritual choice?

    Let’s start a religion doesn’t allow grains or vegetable oils.

  5. David says:

    Wow, the government regulation on what children can eat in school is pretty creepy. Thank God I’m not a child in school anymore, but those poor children are reaping the consequences of a nutritionally-ignorant society.

    Lol to your Shawshank Redemption joke, though I do agree with you that it might actually be a reality where dairy butter and coconut oil have to be smuggled like alcohol during the Prohibition.

    We’ve already got cops busting co-op stores that sell raw milk to willing customers.

  6. Vicki says:

    I am most angry that they think they have the right to take away parents rights to raise their children!!!! How dare they dictate what and where the children will eat…or drink or where to buy goodies from! It is all about personal freedom!

    Exactly. Even if the lunches at school were really and truly good for the kids, that’s not the point.

  7. Lori says:

    Some quotes from a timely article called “”Children, Parents and Obesity” in the journal National Affairs, Winter 2011:

    “According to the USDA, during this school year, schools food authorities that serve less than 60% of their lunches at the free and reduced price rates receive reimbursements of $2.72 per free lunch; $2.32 per reduced price lunch, and 26 cents per fully paid lunch. Schools with higher poverty rates receive more per meal.”

    “A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Center found that middle school children who regularly eat school lunches are more likely to be overweight or obese, to develop poor eating habits, and to have high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol compared to those who bring lunches from home. Another study, published last year in the Journal of Human Resources, confirms that school lunches are contributing to childhood obesity: The authors studied data from more than 13,500 students, and found that children who participate in the school lunch program are more likely to become obese than those who don’t.”

    The article goes on about fraud, waste and abuse in the school lunch program and the ideology of those who want to help childhood obesity but also want more government intervention: control. It’s a short step from being taken care of to being controlled, but I’ve met many people–perhaps it’s most people–who are happy to strike the bargain.

    If they want to strike that bargain for themselves, okay by me. It’s when they decide I need to be included that we have a problem.

  8. Kathy says:

    “I heard on the radio (WLS Chicago) last night that principal saying that she didn’t actually ban home lunches, she was just trying to eliminate the junk food and sodas, especially the ones that the kids might be buying with or without their parents’ knowledge. Who knows, but she implied that the media got the story at least partially wrong.”

    If this is true, her heart may be in the right place, but she shouldn’t have the right or the power to determine that my child can’t have soda (or any other kind of sugar water, such as orange juice) for lunch, or whatever else she may deem to be unhealthful. Are pork rinds unhealthful? I don’t think they are, but they’re full of all that arteryclogglingsaturatedfat, right? Who decides what is junk food? I happen to believe that manufactured soy foods are junk and wouldn’t want my child to consume it, but many schools are now serving vegetarian chili with soy crumbles in it. NO!

    That’s the inherent problem with government determining what’s good for us. We all have different opinions on the issue, but government is a one-size-fits-all solution that’s imposed on everyone.

  9. TonyNZ says:

    Gum is a snack?

    What the hell?

  10. Nick S says:

    Interesting study about wrist bones and insulin resistance: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110411163803.htm

  11. cranmer says:

    This is why I have my kids in private school. I cannot hand them over to the government for the whole day.

  12. Tomas says:

    Came to think of the three biggest lies.
    I think it’s from Murphy’s Law
    1. Your check is in the mail.
    2. Of course I respect you in the morning.
    3. I am from the government and I’m here to help you.

    I recently updated my list:

    1. The check is in the mail.
    2. I’m from the government and I’m here to help.
    3. Your call is important to us.

  13. ken says:

    It is not about the children’s nutrition, that is a smoke screen.

    What they don’t tell you is that it is really about the federal dollars that the school gets for each kid eating school meals. They go out and buy the cheapest food they can, nutritional value be damned, then divert the ‘savings’ to other projects. In addition, by forcing the parents that can pay to pay, they get to pocket double the amount, because that number still is credited to the federal assistance programs.

    It is a tactic that has been discussed numerous times across the nation. Before, the schools offered junk food trying to entice students to eat their food. When that did not pan out, they began looking for ways to mandate it.

    I imagine that with the budget cuts, they were able to pressure other government departments into finally supporting it. Creative financing that no one can argue with because only a heartless person would reject ‘nutritional meals for kids’.

    It’s Chicago, otherwise known as “The City that Works.” This is how it works.

  14. Jon says:

    I’m completely blown away by articles like this. What’s even worse is that I’m exposed to this stupidity every single day. I work at a hospital in a senior inpatient psych unit. They fill out menus everyday for what they would like to eat the following day. On the back of the menu it has this beautiful portrayal of what we should be eating.

    It talks about eating 6-11 servings of grains, and to eat at least 3 ounces of whole grains per day–cereals, breads, crackers, rice. It also says, “Read product labels: Make sure that less than 10 percent of your calories come from saturated fatty acids and take in fewer than 300 mg of cholesterol daily”.

    I get so upset that an organization, such as a hospital, who is attempting to treat the mentally ill, are feeding them loads of sugar, raising their insulin levels constantly, and yet, become baffled when patients feel “run down”, “still sick”, ” or “even worse” after changing medications multiple times. I’m leaning towards this idea of degenerative disease with all the carbohydrates we are literally force feeding people to eat (hence your article).

    How can hospitals still be running under the mystified beliefs that have yet to hold any crediblity for the last 50 years? What is their basis for continuing this trend? I wish all medical professions, including psychiatrists, were informed on, or at least exposed to, the current research. I’ve just started reading “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and I can barely put it down.

    Tom, do you see a trend shifting at some point in time, or it will take many years for a doctor to reply, “Did you eat any fat for breakfast? Did you make sure to order some beef for dinner?”

    It threw me over the edge when the supplier for the fridges was on our unit this morning. A patient wanted some butter for her toast. So, an employee asked the stocker, “Do you guys have any butter in stock?”

    His reply? “No, we only have margarine.”

    Enough said.

    It will change. Thanks to the digital age, the information gatekeepers are losing control of the gates. A lot of doctors are disputing the standard-issue advice, and I expect that trend to continue.

  15. TomIsntFunny says:

    Tom,

    Morgan Spurlock’s wife is hotter (and thinner) than yours. And she’s got a hot tattoo :)

    You suck.

    I don’t find walking cadavers attractive, and I prefer women whose skin doesn’t remind me of a sailor on shore leave … but hey, if that’s a look that works for you, I suggest you do whatever it takes to have sex with her.

  16. Walter says:

    Here’s one from the LA Times that makes up for some of the idiocy we usually have to deal with:

    Chicago lunch policy is a lesson on the nanny state, not good nutrition

    http://www.latimes.com/health/fl-our-health-chicago-packed-lunch-brochu-0413,0,7469056.htmlstory

    Nice to see some sensible voices in the media.

  17. Hilary Kyro says:

    This councilman’s toy-box must be bigger than The Ukraine!

  18. Your Older Brother says:

    “How can hospitals still be running under the mystified beliefs that have yet to hold any credibility for the last 50 years?”

    Let’s not forget how cheap grains, cereals, and other bulk carbs are compared to the saturated fat and protein we should all be eating. When you’re talking about government fed schoolkids and senior citizen psych patients, the odds of these institutions seeing the light are hampered by more than science.

    As I’ve quoted Upton Sinclair before — “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.”

    Cheers!

  19. Elenor says:

    Not germane to this entry, but just heard back from a friend (in his 70′s). I ‘inflicted’ the first half of Fathead on him. (I had him up with a friend for a Sous Vide taste-off: steak, pork, and chicken and a movie… YOUR movie! But he was so blown away by what he’d seen that as soon as he got home, he ordered his own copy!! (And then had his family to watch too!)

    He wrote me:
    “Fathead has changed the lives of everyone in my family! Thought you’d like to know. Thanks again!”

    So I thought YOU’D like to know. My thanks to you, Tom!

    Outstanding! Thanks for spreading the word.

  20. Picky says:

    I recently updated my list:

    1. The check is in the mail.
    2. I’m from the government and I’m here to help.
    3. Your call is important to us.

    I always liked Dogberts version of #3: “Your call is important to us…please hold while we ignore it.

    LOL.

  21. robin says:

    unrelated to head topic, but just saw this study summary stating that saturated fatty acids cause inflammation. I can’t read the full study, so am wondering what is up with this?? http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ni.2022.html
    Doctor Jenny ting helpfully added: “These results support the idea that inflammation plays a role in chronic disease,” says Ting. “The simple message is to avoid fatty foods as much as possible,” in the article New Scientist did on thi study. A study done on mice.

    I think the message is that if you care about your mice, don’t feed them bacon. For humans, inflammation is caused by sugars, grains and unnatural oils.

  22. gallier2 says:

    @robin

    Peter Dobromylskyj had a go at this “study” in his newest blog post http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2011/04/palmitic-acid-horror-never-ends.html

    in short: bullshit article on a bullshit study, so bad that one wonders how dumb one must be to be able to do research.

    In a comment sent around, Dr. Kendrick reacted to this study by lamenting the death of real medical science.

  23. martin says:

    Hi Tom

    Now Tom, you really need to understand the logic and intelligence in the councilman’s brilliant proposal. how can you be so unkind as to compare him to a caharacter from a bad Eddy Murphy movie? The fact that it is true is totally irrelevant, such statements might impair his self esteem and we can’t have that. no sir.
    And how do you dare to suggest that he keep his mouth shut? Don’t you know that whatever it is that made him a politician, weather genetic or environmental, makes it impossible for him to keep it shut for speech purposes?
    As for opening his mouth to eat, is it not obvious that it is mcDonalds, kfc and the other evil capitalist food providers are controlling his mind. For heavens sake, man, he is a politician from New York and it is well known that these individuals must have a weak mind to qualify for the position. What chance does the poor devil have in the face of such perfidious temptation?
    Shame on you for speaking so harshly against an innocent politician (if such a thing exists)

    martin

    When you put it that way, I can see him for the victim he is.

  24. Dinahsoar says:

    Love your blog and your thinking. I live in TN too and your point about them packing–so true. You don’t mess with them. I love that they mind their own business, expect you to mind yours, and if you go sticking your nose into their business you’d better be prepared for what you will get.

    That’s why even though I moved here at age 50, it feels like home. These are my people.

  25. Wendy D. says:

    Banging. Head. On. Desk. With. You.
    I have always packed my son’s lunch. I always have. I always will. If this happened here, holy hell would not begin to describe what I would be raising. Ask the last superintendent I tangled with in an open house forum, it made the newspapers. I am so glad he only has 2 yrs left before graduation and then my madness with the public school system will be over. This is about the drop in participation I’ll bet, imagine all the money they were losing not getting to feed your kid 25c worth of food for $2.75 a day, so if you won’t buy our lunches we’ll force you to! I strongly suggest everyone homeschool their children while you still can.

    Fortunately, the schools around here haven’t tried forcing kids to buy the school lunch, and I don’t think they ever will.

  26. Maria says:

    Interesting. I believe schools make more government money if they give out more “free” lunches. (Of course, we all know they aren’t really free…but what the heck.)

    We have always homeschooled our kids. There was one homeschool co-op that got too restrictive with lunches (no peanut products, no sweets, no chips), so we didn’t sign back up and have gone to another one ever since. Some people don’t mind abiding by the restrictions – which is their choice – and their kids still go there. A whole host of problems could be resolved if people had school choice.

    Agreed. But the statists don’t like choice.

  27. robin says:

    Since y’all were so helpful last time I had a question about a study, here is another one that showed up in my morning paper here in New Zealand.http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10720252
    Any insights? It says that a mother’s low carbohydrate intake duriing the first trimester of pregnancy alters the baby’s DNA to make them more likely to be obese and develop diabetes later in life. I had previously asked about low carb and pregnancy as I am currently trying for our second child. Has anyone seen the actual study?

  28. Belatrix says:

    I spent my childhood behind the iron curtain in Europe and this sounds completely crazy. All schools provided lunches, they were more or less tasty but relatively healthy. But they were a low-cost option. Nobody was obligated to eat them but most did, since they were ok and pretty cheap. There was a chips shop just down the street from my school, but we actually stuck to the school lunches. They tasted better.

    Did I mention that for us, this was a CHOICE? Even in communist Europe, you could bring a packed lunch to school without some busybody official sticking his nose into it. Makes me wonder about the US.

    That pretty much says it all.

  29. marty says:

    of course the politicians will tell you what to eat because you don’t know how to feed your children. they see you as the stupid ignorant masses who just voted for them, and will more than likely vote for them again.

    Voting often seems like a case of “Thank you, sir, may I have another!”

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