This Will Make You Lose Your Lunch

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:

[audio:PopcornCriminal.mp3]
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160 thoughts on “This Will Make You Lose Your Lunch

  1. Maria

    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.

    Reply
  2. Maria

    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.

    Reply
  3. robin

    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?

    Reply
  4. robin

    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?

    Reply
  5. Belatrix

    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.

    Reply
  6. marty

    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!”

    Reply
  7. Belatrix

    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.

    Reply
  8. marty

    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!”

    Reply
  9. Chris

    There is another reason kids bring lunches from home besides the fact that they are healthier (and tastier) – they’re also cheaper! Many parents don’t have the money to pay for all of those school lunches – especially if you have more than one child in school. This is just another way to take away our rights and our money.

    Of course it is. It’s Chicago. You can’t tell me the food provider and the school don’t have a little thing going on.

    Reply
  10. Kathy

    “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.

    Reply

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