A “government takeover” of school lunches

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Economics / Political Commentary / Political Philosophy / Society & Culture

Every so often you run into a piece of news that epitomizes everything that is wrong with leftism. Today’s anecdote: a Chicago school has banned children from bringing their own lunches.

The reason is simple—the principal wants to “protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.” Let’s assume that means the parents too. Perhaps banning certain types of food was not far enough; people simply shouldn’t be allowed to make their own choices. It’s far preferable to restrict them only to the approved items.

The second phase of leftist policy, once you’ve restricted choice, is to make the authority the sole supplier. This way, intellectual elites can manage our lives and make them better. At this school, “most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both.” Hmmmm…. did you catch the “or both” part? Why would someone take the meals and go hungry? As it turns out, when you force people into something they don’t want, they’re less likely to value it and take care of it. If the students brought what they wanted from home, their lunch would be full of whatever they or their parents think is best, and the food might actually be eaten (especially since they bear the full cost). In economist terms, individual preferences would ensure that resources are allocated efficiently. But “individual” is a dirty word in this miniature academic utopia.

But there’s a greater reason why food is being thrown away, and it’s the same reason hundreds of thousands of decent used cars were destroyed last year (which caused used car prices to skyrocket. All in the name of helping the poor, of course). Many of these lunches are subsidized by federal dollars. The government draws a line and says anyone earning below that line can get free or discounted lunch. Imagine yourself walking into the cafeteria, someone behind a counter hands you a tray of food that you may or may not like, at no charge. If you don’t like it, you’ll just toss it. Even if you do, it’s no loss to you if you don’t finish. But if you’ve ever heard of the phrase “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch,” you’d know that it is a loss to someone… just not anyone you know or care about.

But we do know exactly who is getting paid. Chartwells-Thompson is the district’s food provider, who gets a fee for each lunch, and if parents don’t pay, the Federal Government taxpayer does. The paradox of restricting the free market for the sake of equality and fairness is that it is rarely equal and never fair. Governments pick winners and losers—it’s part of the job, as it is with anyone who has the power to choose one thing over another. And in this case, the winners are the food provider and the school; the losers are the students, parents and taxpayers.

But some parents do think it’s a winning situation. “The school food is very healthy,” one parent said, “and when they bring the food from home, there is no control over the food.” And that’s precisely the mentality that drives leftism: if people are left to decide for themselves then “there’s no control,” and control is just so alluring.

One point brought up in the article is that this actually will cost some parents more because they can pack lunches themselves at a lower cost. It won’t be long before someone pushes to have the difference covered by the state. And that would only be fair, given the circumstances.

What you have here is an intention to encourage healthy eating. The result is wasted food, unhappy and hungry students, and poorer parents. And who’s to say that what the school offers is healthy anyway, especially given our genes and lifestyles vary widely. Sure, some kids will eat healthier… but more importantly, they will never have to learn how to provide for themselves or anyone else. Living on the public dole will soon be the American modus operandi. And for the left, they can imagine no better future.

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  1. Gia says

    While I’m pretty leftist, I came across this article yesterday and thought it was completely ludicrous. It’s just a step too far and there’s no reason for school districts to be policing what children eat during lunch.

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