Some students are fat, so everyone must diet
In December 2010, first lady Michelle Obama lobbied for passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which increased the Department of Agriculture's control over school cafeterias from coast to coast.
Nearly two years later, as the act takes effect, students complain that they are not getting enough to eat. Meanwhile, food piles up in garbage bins because children won't eat the new menu.
The law gives Agricultural Commissioner Tom Vilsack the authority to set nutritional standards for all food sold in school including vending machines, cafeterias and school stores.
School lunches, for example, are limited to 650 calories in elementary schools, 750 calories in middle school and 850 calories in high school. Very precise.
There are other restrictions. In one case, a school could serve students one cheese-stuffed bread stick, but the sauce had to be meatless. Washington hath spoken.
Vilsack gets that power because the federal government controls how $4.5 billion is allocated to school cafeterias. Schools that comply fully get an extra 6 cents in reimbursement per meal.
The problem is a preposterous idea - that bureaucrats in Washington know exactly what students in Kansas need.
Students at Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs, Kan., may open some eyes. They shot a video that showed the folly of such a calorie restriction for kids who work on farms in the morning and practice football in the evening.
"The misguided nanny state, as advanced by Michelle Obama's 'Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act,' was interpreted by Secretary Vilsack to be a directive that, because some kids are overweight, he would put every child on a diet," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
"Parents know that their kids deserve all of the healthy and nutritious food they want."
This situation is a common malady in the United States. The federal government makes a federal case out of everything.
Obesity is bad. But a big regulatory state poses its own dangers.
Americans are not truly a free people if the government can tell them what to eat and how much of it.