Lunchroom politics hard to digest

I don?t like to get involved in the subject of politics. It?s impossible to discuss it rationally.

Take the issue of inflation: A person starts out expressing his feelings about the unusually high number of pre-popped balloons they had raining down at the end of the Republican convention and a few minutes later he ends up calling his friend an un-American chunk of terrorist scum stuck to the bottom of Hitler?s made-in-China shoes.

But sometimes a government-sanctioned action comes along that doesn?t need correcting as much as it needs mocking. These are the moments when I step up to the podium, point my finger, lean into the microphone and make the noise of a loudly deflating Cushion of Whoop.

This is just such a time.

The United States recently decided the best way to combat childhood obesity is to make sure that said kids don?t get any measureable amounts of food. The plan: Instead of leaving lunchroom nutrition to the people who work in the lunchroom and know the preferences and needs of its students, the Department of Agriculture and a certain First Lady who shall remain nameless have decided they get to set the rules.

It kind of reminds me of that story where Ebenezer Scrooge forces Oliver Twist to eat green eggs and ham, but won?t actually let him have enough to get full.

The new guidelines are all about dramatically cutting calories and fats and sodiums and anything else that might, at some point, make a food item unhealthy.

Meals for high school students are capped at 850 calories per day. Subtract the calories in one cup of non-fat chocolate milk, and that leaves 700 calories to work with.

So what does that look like?

Seven hundred calories gets you a several bites of a Big Mac and half an order of french fries. Or four and a half inches of a meatball Subway sandwich with a teensy bag of baked Lays. Or three-quarters of Taco Bell?s cantina burrito and half an order of fiesta potatoes. Or a 6-inch personal pan pepperoni pizza, minus some crust.

For a person who has a petite appetite and isn?t planning to do much between lunch and supper, that?s plenty of food. But we?re talking about teenagers who have three more hours of class plus another two hours of athletic practice.

Not to mention that the above meals have only two items. School cafeterias, meanwhile, need at least four items to stretch those 700 calories between. Less for middle and elementary meals.

But not to fear!

To address these issues, the White House recently hosted a glitzy ?kids? state dinner? and the School Nutrition Association conference in Denver brought in a former Disney World restaurant manager to show cafeteria workers how easy it is to turn skimpy foods into attractive and fun meals.

One article displayed meal idea photos: a ?summer fruit garland? made of six slivers of fruit on a stick, a fruit smoothie the size of a communion glass and a ?yummy cabbage sloppy Joe with baked zucchini fries? that an average 14-year-old could swallow in a single bite.

Scanty, but beautiful: these items were pleasant to look at.

?Don?t put veggies in opaque containers,? said one presenter, ?or give them boring labels like ?corn.??

Apparently experience in marketing, art and creative writing are now prerequisites to work in a school kitchen, because serving real food isn?t necessary anymore.

Thanks to the vigilance of a few people in the upper parts of the government who seriously need to find a hobby, the basic school lunch has been turned into a circus sideshow that?s supposed to magically teach kids the habits of a healthy diet.

I guess they think giving kids pretty carrot stick arrangements and sending them home starving will be more effective than teaching them in health class how to make better choices, or encouraging everyone to get a little more involved during gym.

Then again, that would be harder to make fun of.

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