Congressional candidate James Brown is questioning the federal mandates covering what should be served in school lunches.
“Almost 600 school districts have dropped out of the National School Lunch Program due to the unprofitability of the new meals,” said Brown, a Stratford Republican challenging longtime Democrat U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro.
“They cost more to provide, and if students aren’t buying the lunches, the schools lose money,” Brown said.
He asked if the mandated lunches provide enough calories for student athletes and if they lead to unnecessary food waste.
Brown is running in the Third Congressional District, which includes a part of Shelton.
The new school lunch requirements have been championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and are partly intended to cut down on youth obesity.
‘Create new mandates’
In 2010, President Obama signed the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act into law.
Brown said DeLauro “championed the bill, saying that it was a much-needed recommitment to the health of our nation’s children. [DeLauro] said that ‘kids are going to bed hungry’ while others are facing an obesity epidemic.
“Her answer was to create new mandates for schools on what they can serve children in the cafeteria,” said Brown, who has worked as a public school teacher.
But Brown said it’s a case of the government telling parents what is best for their children.
“While wanting to keep our youth healthy is a noble cause, coercive federal tactics like these are not the way to go,” he said. “DeLauro is essentially telling parents that she knows what’s best for their children. Nutritional needs vary greatly from student to student.”
Athletes need more calories
“Those who participate in a sport need more than the 850 calories that are allowed at lunchtime,” Brown said.
“As a coach of a cross-country team, athletes burn upwards of 1,200 calories during practice,” he continued. “These kids need more calories to maintain a healthy weight, and the lunches they’re being served are inadequate.
“One-size-fits-all meals do not make sense,” he said. “In the classroom, we have individual education plans that are designed to fit students needs. Every student learns differently, just like every student has a different metabolism and caloric requirements, not to mention varying tastes.
Food being wasted?
Brown said some news outlets have reported as much as $4 million in food being thrown out each day due to the new school lunch rules.
“The students are forced to take a fruit, even if they tell the cafeteria worker that they’re going to throw it out,” he said. “This is wasteful, but it also creates artificial demand for the fruit, and the cost of fruit goes up for everyone.”
Brown also said the new rules have increased costs and lowered cafeteria profits for school districts.
“The profits from selling lunches could be put towards new textbooks and technology to improve the quality of education that the students receive,” he said. “Instead, school districts that are already on a tight budget find themselves with even fewer resources.
Educate parents instead
Brown said he supports a different approach. “Parents should be educated on which foods are nutritious and which are not, but it is their right to feed their children as they see fit,” he said.
“Congress does not know what’s best for our children,” Brown said. “Those closest to the kids, like parents, educators, and administrators, are the ones who know what students need. This is not what the government is for. Let’s restore the freedom of choice to parents once and for all.”