from a winter storm Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Monday, Jan. 10, 2011 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Sonny Perdue Is Rethinking The School Lunch Program, And The Protestors Are Out In Force, Even Though They Don’t Know What They’re Protesting

New Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is looking at easing some of the regulatory burden of the National School Lunch Program – on a temporary basis, at least. Perdue visited two schools in Virginia on Monday to introduce an interim rule that introduces “regulatory flexibility” to the program and places a moratorium on implementing Tier 2 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the pet project of former first lady Michelle Obama.

What does it all mean? Basically, the rule eases some of the restrictions on school lunches and allows a little more discretion at the hands of local school systems – which is always a good thing.

Perdue said his office wants to have time to study the impacts of the stricter guidelines and make a decision on whether to move forward with them or, more likely, reverse them. He noted that schools nationwide are reporting that more food is ending up in the trash and the number of students participating in school breakfast and lunch programs has declined.

“We all know that meals can’t be nutritious if they’re not consumed—if they’re in the trash,” Perdue said. “We have to balance the sodium content, the wholegrain content with the palpability.”

Know what else it means? You guessed it – protestors showed up, though they weren’t exactly sure wha they were railing against. Over at RedState, Teri Christoph stopped by one of the protests and talked to some of the demonstrators who held signs with lame slogans like “Democracy Requires That We Care For Each Other.”

Sodium seemed to be the main concern of many. One lady told me that while she had no clue what was in the rule, she had heard sodium levels in the food would definitely rise. A local Democrat candidate for Congress was certain the new rule would lead to vending machines returning to schools and poor choices being made by students.

I asked several of the protesters if it wouldn’t be a good thing if the rule led to our school system having more control over meeting our kids’ needs, especially the needs of students who get free or reduced-price lunches, and was told unequivocally it would not be a good thing. Consensus was that the school lunch program would go to hell – a salty, salty hell – without minimum standards being set by the federal government.

The bottom line is this: what good is it to offer uber-healthy foods if kids aren’t eating them? Is it better for our kids (poor, middle class, and rich alike) to go hungry at school or to have some options that may not exactly be the ultimate in health food?

Perdue just might be on to something. Maybe these relaxed regulations will make school lunches tolerable again. After all, a little bit of healthy food is better than none at all.

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Chris Queen

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