Forget obesity: Congressmen want more calories in school lunches

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Seventeen percent of the children in America, 12.5 million of them, are grossly overweight. The prevalence of obesity among children has tripled since 1980.

So what do congressional Republicans want to do about it? Perversely, they want to increase the size of meals in the federally subsidized school lunch program. That's right, increase, as in fatten.

Since new nutrition standards went into effect requiring more fruits and vegetables and less starch and protein in cafeteria lunches, some young people have been complaining because the meals don't contain the enormous portions served in many of the country's restaurants or households. Yet the meals are not exactly diet portions -- the regulations limit elementary school lunches to 650 calories, middle schools to 700 and high schools, 850.

Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., have proposed the "No Hungry Kids Act," a name that suggests a false reality, unfairly blaming the problem of hunger in America on school lunches. The reality is quite the opposite. For some poor children, the only adequate nutrition they get each day are the meals at school. Nonetheless, critics call the nutritionists at the Department of Agriculture who developed the healthful standards "nutrition nannies."

Well, a conscientious nanny is better than an indulgent parent who gives in to whining children just because they don't like their lunches.

While the protein and grain servings are smaller than those previously provided, there are more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Children may not be accustomed to the portions, but they won't go hungry if they eat their entire meals.

The last thing the federal government should be doing is promoting larger and larger school lunches, which would lead to larger and larger people, escalating rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, and the ballooning medical costs that come with those conditions.

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