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SPOTLIGHT
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Nutrition nannies invade school cafeterias

Published on -9/25/2012, 6:18 AM

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Our commander-in-chief and agriculture secretary are apparently moonlighting as nutrition nannies.

From our farms to our businesses to our doctors' offices, one would think that the Obama administration has run out of places to invade.

But, as school children and their parents learned as the kids headed back to the classrooms this fall, the Obama administration has found one more place over which to exercise domination: the school cafeteria.

In the final weeks of 2010, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi prepared to pass the gavel to Republicans, House Democrats got a bill to President Obama's desk that empowered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to completely rewrite school lunch standards.

With a title like Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, one would think such a law would have a goal of making sure kids have full stomachs.

But, as school administrators and cooks, students, and parents have informed me, the USDA's rules that resulted from this Hunger-Free Act are having the opposite effect.

Calorie limits are leaving our student-athletes under-nourished ahead of intense practices. Three hours of practice after a 750- to 850-calorie lunch with limited protein at noon?

An emphasis on what goes on the plate -- rather than into the body -- has only increased the amount of food that goes into the trash can.

And, now that kids are not getting the food they neither need nor want, many are going off-campus for even less healthy alternatives like fast food or convenience store fare, undermining altogether the whole purpose of the school lunch program.

The last Congress was wrong to pass this law that led to these new regulations. But, the current Congress can make it right by exercising our oversight function. Earlier this month, my colleague Steve King and I introduced the No Hungry Kids Act to repeal these school lunch guidelines.

In the same way that one-size-fits-all does not work for what we teach in our classrooms, this legislation recognizes that no single set of cafeteria standards should apply to every single school across the nation -- let alone every single student. By lifting the calorie caps and by protecting the rights of parents to make decisions for their children, our bill will ensure that children get the food they need in order to stay alert in the classroom and healthy on the athletic fields.

If high school students are to be trusted to operate a car at the age of 16 or to choose a college or to vote at the age of 18, then they should at least be trusted to make the decision about what they eat at lunch.

The school lunch program was created in order to combat hunger. That should still be the goal of the program. But, when calories have been curtailed, less appealing food is on the plate, and students are filling the cafeteria trash cans rather than their stomachs, the goal of overcoming hunger and obesity is defeated.

To learn more about the No Hungry Kids Act and to share your own family's experiences with the school lunch program, visit www.facebook.com/nutritionnannies.

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler and Hutchinson, represents the First District of Kansas and serves on the House Agriculture, Budget, and Veterans' Affairs committees.

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