John Murray heard a soft knock on his front door. Looking out a window, he saw his neighbor, ten-year-old Amy Lawton, standing on the porch. She was as cute as the proverbial button, and John often joked with Amy’s dad Bob that he should keep her locked in the basement until she is twenty-five because fending off love-sick boys is going to be his chief duty for many years to come.
John opened the door and said, “Well, hello there, Miss Lawton. What brings you to my door this fine morning?”
“Hello, Mr. Murray. You know that every year my school tries to raise money so we can go on field trips and buy extra supplies. Well, I’m here to ask if you would like to help again this year.”
John’s eyes widened. “Would I like to help? Young lady, you know darn well that I look forward to buying some of your goodies each year. Now let’s see what I have a yankerin’ for. How about some of that great chocolate chip cookie dough. Ooh, that makes the best chocolate chip cookies this side of the Mississippi.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Murray. We’re not selling that this year.”
“No problem, my dear lady. I’m just as fond of the oatmeal and raisin dough. I’ll take three tubs.”
“No, you don’t understand, Mr. Murray. We’re not selling any cookie dough at all this year. Sorry.”
“Well, that’s all right. How about those giant chocolate candy bars? You know, the ones that are about as big as one of my legs. What are they called again?”
“T-Rex Bars, Mr. Murray. But . . .”
“That’s right. T-Rex Bars. I’ll take five.”
“I’m sorry again, but we’re not selling them this year, either.”
“You’re killing me, Amy. Well, then, how about the butter-flavored popcorn? There’s nothing like snuggling up with Mrs. Murray and sharing a bowl of that popcorn while we watch an old romantic movie. Life doesn’t get any better than that, Miss Lawton.”
“Gee, I hate to disappoint you again, Mr. Murray, but we aren’t selling popcorn this year, either. Too much fat content.”
“Well, then, what exactly are you selling?”
Amy reached inside a cardboard box she had placed at her feet and pulled out a small plastic cup.
“What’s that, Amy?” John asked.
“It’s a fruit cup, Mr. Murray. The fruit cups come in a six-pack, and we have several flavors. My teacher says they’re a healthy snack.”
“Healthy, you say,” John said, not trying to hide his skepticism. “Have you tried one of these ‘healthy’ fruit cups, Amy?”
“I’ll be honest with you, Mr. Murray. I usually pour some sugar on them and then eat them. They’re better that way.”
John scratched his chin. “What else do you have in that box?”
Amy reached in and pulled out something wrapped in colorful paper.
“Ah, Amy, now that has to be a candy bar. Maybe it’s not a T-Rex, but candy is candy.”
“No, Mr. Murray, it’s a granola bar. They’re made of organic stuff that’s good for you.”
“You mean like pieces of bark and twigs and that sort of ‘stuff’?”
Amy looked perplexed. “I’m not sure, Mr. Murray.”
“That okay, Amy. Anything else?”
“No. That’s it.”
“Stay here for a second, Amy. I’ll be right back.”
John returned in about a minute and handed Amy a twenty-dollar bill.
“Here you go, honey. I want to help your school, but I’ll pass on the fruit cups and granola bars. Thanks anyway.”
“Thanks, Mr. Murray.” Amy turned, walked down the steps, and headed for the Switkowskis next door.
“Good luck, kid,” John whispered softly.
Far-fetched, you say? Not so. This past July, another shoe fell from Michelle Obama’s favorite law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. As you may know, this is the law that requires schools that provide federally subsidized lunches to offer bland, tasteless, “healthy” foods that millions of school children have unceremoniously dumped into trash barrels. But now the law also sets standards for what kinds of foods are in vending machines and daytime fundraisers. Further, the law will allow some exemptions for “infrequent” fundraisers that do not adhere to the new standards. States that do not get an exemption can only sell items that meet certain sodium, fat, and calorie requirements.
If a state does not comply, it can be sued by the federal government. In fact, the scofflaws at Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah, had the temerity to sell fat-filled snacks and carbonated drinks near the lunch area where “healthy” meals were being served. The penalty for such reckless behavior? A $15,000 fine, which was eventually reduced to $1,297. (Only a government bureaucracy could come up with such an odd number.)
In the America I was raised in, state leaders would have told the federal government to go to . . . well . . . an unpleasant place. But, amazingly, thirty-two states have agreed to follow the new dictates. Twelve states have already set their own limits on bake-sale foods.
Instead of howls of protest against government overreach, what do we hear? A principal of an Indiana elementary school demonstrates how they have adjusted to the new rules: “We used to have a carnival with a cake walk, now we do a book walk. The students get to pick a book.” I bet kids and that school line up early to play that game.
In a classic example of an inability to see the forest for the trees, we find Julia Bauscher, the president of the School Nutrition Association. She is also the director of school and community nutrition services at Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky. With perfect bureaucratic wisdom, she says, “For some districts, this will be a huge change. There’s a lot of fear among school food directors that we will have to be the food police.”
Ms. Bauscher, I have news for you: You already are the food police.