Friday, May 25, 2012

Federalism is bad because a principal won't turn off his vending machines?!

One of the things that makes school food political, of course, is that it makes so much money. The other is that there are always fights over who will get to make decisions. I make this point in my article in Educational Researcher and in the introduction to School Food Politics: The Ecology of Hunger and Feeding in Schools Around the World. These two things interact, of course, in that control over policy comes with control over the money, usually. Conservatives of a particular stripe resent any control over the money and prefer that local schools do whatever they want with the food served in schools. Here's GOP Representative Rob Bishop of Utah talking about why federalism is bad just because two principals got busted for clear, avoidable violations of a longstanding rule about competitive foods. They got busted, by the way, by state inspectors. Yes, Rob, the states monitor compliance with the rules. And, the rules are there to protect the federally funded program that is feeding actual nutritious lunches to the kids at those schools. If the schools were allowed to make money during lunch off of vending machines, the program for giving healthy food wouldn't be able to survive financially. Ask those schools how they would feel if the funding for the program and the commodity products used were just left up to Utah to provide. The schools could opt out of the program (not all schools use the National School Lunch Program), but what would that do in terms of "punishing" the kids at that school? If you want the federal funds, you have to turn off the vending machines at lunch; it's very simple. If you don't want the millions in federal funds, and you'd rather get the couple hundred dollars the machines would make during lunch time each week, by all means keep them on. It's still a local choice, no federalism problem involved.