Friday, 22 August 2014 09:35

Marietta, Ga., School Board Takes Issue With Federal Snack Laws

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With guidelines setting limits on student food choices and calorie consumption, the federal government is overstepping the limits of its authority, the Board of Education in Marietta, Georgia, has declared.

The board at last week's meeting passed a resolution expressing its displeasure with rules set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture governing the types of foods available in schools. While the rules are tied to subsidies for school lunch programs, they also cover the offerings in school vending machines, and the Marietta board says that's going a bit — or a bite — too far.

"Students spend approximately 180 days in school each year, and don't need Washington making it a joyless experience by 'legislating away' their opportunity to have an occasional donut or candy bar," board member Tom Cheater declared during the meeting, as reported by the Marietta Daily Journal

The board's complaint is not about rules governing the subsidized school lunches, Superintendent Emily Lembeck pointed out, reasoning that the federal government has the right to control how federal dollars are spent. The objection is to extending the rules to cover any foods anywhere in the schools, including not only snacks from vending machines, but food items sold in fundraising efforts to support various school activities. Marietta High School Principal Leigh Colburn said students in cooking classes will no longer be allowed to sell cupcakes and other desserts, or coffee and muffins if the whole-grain muffins exceed the caloric count set by the Department of Agriculture standards.

Lembeck said the state is seeking a waiver that will allow schools to have up to 30 opportunities to sell the forbidden foods in fundraisers that would last no more than three days each.

The rules reflect a trend in government circles — such as Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood and adolescent obesity — to discourage high levels of consumption by children and teenagers of sugar-laden sweets and other fattening foods. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign against "Big Gulp" fountain drinks resulted in a city-wide ban on the sale of more than 16-ounce servings of sugary soft drinks — a ban struck down by the New York Supreme Court.  

"I think when you're talking about high school and you're talking about sales that happen outside of the cafeteria ... with 16-,17-, 18-, 19-year-old kids, they're perfectly capable of making these kinds of decisions for themselves," Principal Colburn said.

"What about athletes who need more calories?" asked board member Jill Multimer. "This rule is much more far-reaching than most realize."

Cheater said he hopes the resolution will send a message to the federal government that school systems, and not Washington, are in the best position to decide what should be served in their schools.

But regardless of intentions, the state of Georgia, like the rest of the states, effectively bartered away that local authority by accepting the federal subsidy for school lunches, rather than raising that money at the state or local level. By sparing themselves that burden, states and municipalities have left their local school boards in the position of begging the federal "cupcake police" for permission to hold a bake sale.

The local appetite for federal dollars is as troublesome in its own way as youthful addiction to snacks.

3 comments

  • Comment Link Jim Chambers Sunday, 24 August 2014 12:33 posted by Jim Chambers

    I've maintained for a while now that each state should pass a law requiring their citizens to pay all taxes above the county level to the state coffers and let the state determine how much of that should be sent to the fed. By doing that the states could not be held hostage to this kind of intimidation. Additionally, the size of the federal bureaucracy would shrink dramatically as the states began to decide how big the fed could get, what agencies we did not need and what the feds could and could not do.
    It is my belief that the federal government has gotten waaay to big for its britches and needs to be brought back in line with the constitution.
    It wouldn't hurt to also require that your federal representatives be required to spend 50 weeks per year within the state. This scheme would keep those you elect to represent you closer to you so that you could get your hands on them should they begin to err and make it 50 times harder for lobbyists to buy them off. Given the communication abilities today this could be fairly easily accomplished.
    I have a few other ideas about how to make these governments more responsive and responsible also.

  • Comment Link Reeseaaonja93 Saturday, 23 August 2014 10:22 posted by Reeseaaonja93

    =

  • Comment Link Nora Friday, 22 August 2014 20:55 posted by Nora

    A resolution is a good start, way to go Marietta. Stop the nanny-state from ruling your district by saying no thanks to those subsidies that are simply an insidious form of control.
    Why do the feds want to totally control our lives, anyway? We've made it clear we don't want tyrannical dictators telling us what we can and can't do. It's time to put some enforcement of the constitution up their butts.

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