Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nanny State Update: Chicago School Lunches

Yesterday's Nanny State alert about Chicago schoolkids being prohibited from bringing lunches from home, thus needing to buy the school-provided lunch if they were going to eat, got a lot of attention. The article revealed yet another frightening fraud being committed by bureaucratic bullies -- this one a case of eliminating parental control, increasing the profits of selected companies at taxpayer expense, and teaching kids that government must control every area of their lives.

Beside the traffic to the Vital Signs Blog post, it generated a nifty thread when I cross-posted it on Facebook. Among those comments, Rich McGinness dropped in this gem:

"I wonder if it has anything to do with government subsidies that schools get only if a kid buys a school lunch? If I understand correctly, kids here are required to purchase a school lunch (even if they throw it away) so that they can also order other 'side items' they actually want to eat. [Many] schools banned their competition from serving food in the schools (like Pizza Hut, Runza, Subway, etc) several years ago and now give the kids one (sub-standard, in my opinion) option. Even with the subsidization, school lunches are still not 'cheap.' With that said, at least our kids are allowed to bring their own lunches!"

Rich then linked to a USA Today story from a couple of years ago dealing with the same subject. Here's an illuminating excerpt from that article: 

In the past three years, the government has provided the nation's schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn't meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants, from Jack in the Box and other burger places to chicken chains such as KFC, a USA TODAY investigation found.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the meat it buys for the National School Lunch Program "meets or exceeds standards in commercial products."

That isn't always the case. McDonald's, Burger King and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.

And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.

For chicken, the USDA has supplied schools with thousands of tons of meat from old birds that might otherwise go to compost or pet food. Called "spent hens" because they're past their egg-laying prime, the chickens don't pass muster with Colonel Sanders— KFC won't buy them — and they don't pass the soup test, either. The Campbell Soup Company says it stopped using them a decade ago based on "quality considerations."