Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Puttin' on the Ritz: Kid, Schools, Food, & Control

You've probably already seen this note, which is actually a year old, but is now going viral after being posted on a site called Weighty matters:

Basically, a Canadian mom had her kids in a daycare with nutritional requirements on lunches brought from home due to participating in a government nutrition program. Her kids' lunches contained potatoes, but no actual grain, so they were considered "deficient" and accordingly the lunches were supplemented (with Ritz crackers) and the parents were fined. Moms across the political spectrum are speaking out against this intrusive control of children's diets. But many of them seem primarly concerned that the regulations are not the right regulations, that the problem is not the the government is regulating what parents must give their children to eat, but that Ritz crackers are considered superior to potatoes (they're on the naughty list for many ├╝ber healthy moms, as they are a processed food with things like fat and sodium in them). Still others view this as an unfortunate but not terribly important side effect of a program they believe genuinely helps underprivileged kids who don't have adequate lunches when they bring from home. 

My thought is that under American law and common sense, this is an unfair intrusion upon the rights of parents to raise their children the way they see fit (barring abuse). It is reasonable and even good for the government to have laws to protect children who are actually not being fed, it is unreasonable for the government to impose caloric restrictions beyond the level considered neglect, or to require foods from certain categories. And I also think it is reasonable and good for schools to have the power to supplement lunches that actually lack adequate calories for a child to be able to participate fully in school, and charge his or her parents the cost of the food provided. 
Beyond that, it is prudent for society, government, and schools to educate, to recommend, but NOT to actually control what parents feed their children. Parents should be able to choose for their children diets that I personally don't advocate for, like Paleo, vegetarian or vegan diets (none of which would be able to fulfill the requirements of the restrictive school lunch program as delineated on the note). They should be able to choose to occasionally send a special lunch without much healthy food in it. They should be able to choose to not include any veggies because their child only eats veggies slathered in ranch dressing or baked in olive oil and they don't want to send expensive produce to be thrown away. They should be able to choose fo send a lunch that balances breakfast and dinner, even if that means it is lacking in a certain food group, or even several. The most important part of that: the parents should get to choose. 

It is beyond the scope of the government to tell parents which foods they must feed their children. But the fault doesn't lie entirely with the government in this case; it also lays with the owners of childcare facilities and schools that accept government restrictions on nutrition (I was heartened that at least one teacher I know posted about this on Facebook earlier today, even though I know individual teachers probably don't get much say on nutrtion policies adopted by their districts, it gave me hope that at least some teachers might show more leniency and common sense in enforcing such policies.) The responsibility also lays with parents who agree to abide by these restrictions. It is a reminder that as parents, we must be vigilant about reading the policies of the places we entrust with the care of our children and need to speak up about those we disagree with. That we must let our politicians know that we do not agree with unecessary and intrusive government regulation.

 If we as parents do not stand up for our right to make decisions for our children according to our own values, the government will continue to chip away at them, one Ritz cracker at a time. 

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