Bureaucratic bean counters
A recent story about food served to school kids should leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Federal bureaucrats love beans. High school students dislike beans.
Here's today's quiz: how does one reconcile these conflicting attitudes toward beans in a way that makes both sides happy?
Those who read News-Gazette reporter Meg Dickinson's Sunday story about the federal mandates for school lunches know the answer.
The bureaucrat orders schools, like Champaign Central High School, to serve the beans, and the bureaucrat is pleased when the school complies. Many high school students do not eat the beans and are pleased to throw them in the trash.
Both sides are satisfied, but not everyone else. Those who prepared the beans see their time wasted, and the taxpayers who finance the purchase of the beans see their money wasted.
But that is the price we pay for the federal government's top-down management, which has concluded the right thing to do is serve beans that school kids throw away.
Really, is this any way to run a government?
The answer, at least from those in charge, is an emphatic yes. But from our perspective, it looks like another form of authoritarian rule — mindless bureaucrats operating in a world and under rules of their own.
As is often the case, this sort of foolishness is driven by good intentions. Concerned about childhood health and obesity issues, the federal bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to do something about it. What they came up with is a rigid set of rules mandating the types, amounts and calories of foods that must be served to school students.
The story reported that students have to take some fruit, and, if they do not, a food checker examining their tray will make them take the fruit of the day. That fruit often goes in the garbage as well.
The bottom line is that some kids do not get enough to eat, some get more than they want to eat. Those who prepare the food have seen their workload and costs increase while the kids — the supposed beneficiaries of the bureaucrats' attempts to make them stop eating like kids — roll their eyes, eat what they want and ignore what they don't want.
There has to be a better way to offer (repeat offer, not force) healthy food choices to school children. But don't expect the bureaucrats to bother looking. They've hurled their thunderbolts down from Mount Olympus and are on to creating other non-solutions to perceived problems.
By the way, the beans the school serves don't have to taste bad. The cooks know how to make them taste good, or at least better. But they are barred from doing so because flavorful ingredients would add forbidden fat or calories, and the food police will not allow it.
It's better from the bureaucrats' point of view that unadorned beans go from the serving bowl to the plate to the trash. Doesn't it make you feel healthier just reading about it?