A Conservative Solution to The Public School Lunch Circular Firing Squad

by Steve MacDonald

Federal mandates made school lunches cost more and forced foods into them most kids don’t care for so the Derry School District Lunch program School lunches dont have to be expensive trach no one wantsis pondering why overall receipts are down.

“The food service numbers are significantly less on student sales,” Simard said. She said the food services department is still working to determine the cause and whether it is the result of new meal plans and food choices required under state and federal reimbursement guidelines.

She knows why she is just being diplomatic.  The Feds have made lunch cost more.  They have made the cost of providing lunch cost more.  They have simultaneously required foods that a majority of the target hot lunch customer base does not enjoy while making foods they do less accessible or unavailable.  The result is more cost for less benefit.

This particular reporting in Derry NH (NH Union Leader) tells the same sad tale.

“There’s quite a bit of waste.”

To get reimbursed the district must sell a full meal which includes things many students will not eat.

The district has to wait to get reimbursed.

The district can get additional reimbursements if they comply with USDA guidelines…“We are trying to comply with the program so we can generate the additional revenue.

So follow me here.  One set of bureaucrats imposes guidelines that make meals cost more, composed of things kids won’t eat so that local officials can chase revenue that they have to wait for, all because someone in a far away place wanted to put “I fixed school lunches” on their political resume.

But they didn’t fix them.  They broke them.

So here’s an idea.  I know, it’s crazy.  Fire all those federal people.  Eliminate all those mandates and reimbursements and the bureaucrats needed to write, impose, and manage them.   Instead, let local district food service managers create meal plans with foods their kids will buy and may actually eat, at prices they might be willing to pay, in relation to the actual cost required to deliver them, because they were not artificially inflated by the bureaucrats we no longer need or include foods that cost too much–but that bureaucrats require–that no one wants, and will only get thrown out.

Is this too simple?

This is, by the way, an example of what I mean when I say we need “small government” and “local control.”

If I only said that the USDA school lunch program is a waste of taxpayer dollars and would be better manged without the Feds in the middle, more than a few Democrats might see that as an opportunity to suggest that I want to make kids go hungry or end funding for free or supplemental lunches.   They say the same thing when you declare that the 72 billion we spend annually on the department of education is a waste–which it is.  But they are not even close.  What we are doing now, thanks to the feds, is spending more, wasting more, and leaving kids hungry.

What I have outlined is Conservative thinking at its finest.  It saves everyone money and frustration.  My plan empowers local people to make local decisions at a fraction of the cost, with a fraction of the waste, with price points that might well make hot lunch affordable to a wider range of kids, reducing the cost of free or supplemental lunches, freeing up local revenue to pay for kids who actually need free lunches, that may end up inside stomachs instead of trash barrels, leading to less waste and less hunger, more fed and attentive students, and millions less wasted on a tangle of pointless paper-pushers and man hours exhausted on chasing down reimbursements or cataloging what ended up in the waste bin.  It also places the decision-making process as close to the people affected as possible. People who can make decisions about who in their community needs help and how best to provide it.

And by the way, what good is a free lunch no kid wants to eat?

The Conservative position is that local residents know best whom to elect and to appoint, who is most qualified to then hire competent local mangers, who can then run their local school lunch programs effectively, without the need for Leviathan government standing over them.  The goal is to provide a decent, affordable meal kids will eat so they are not distracted by hunger, and to provide adequate compensation to those we have empowered to that end.

The alternative (the bizarro world version of how to deliver a lunch) is what we have now.  Federal mandates that strangle everyone drive up prices, and increase the cost of running a program that provides food no one wants, in exchange for wasting even more of our program mangers time, chasing down the chimera of “reimbursements” to cover costs that only exist because of the mandates themselves.

Remove all of that and people are paying for food they want at a price they agree to, that covers the cost to provide it, without any additional transactions outside the place in which the product and service were provided.

Cost effective, local control that is limited to only that which is required to achieve the desired goal.  That is a conservative ideal.  It is sometimes (also) a Republican idea.  And let’s be perfectly honest–it is a common sense idea that eliminates all the problems and spends less doing it.

School lunches are getting more expensive.  We are seeing fewer people buying them and those that do waste much of what they purchase.  Kids are going hungry.  Administrators are being forced to spend time and money chasing paperwork.  And it will only get worse.  How is any of that good for our kids?

I would encourage New Hampshire legislators, including Democrats,  to craft legislation that excludes us from this federal bureaucratic maze of nonsense and that returns local control to districts, school lunch managers, and the parents to whom they answer. The result would be local control, more affordable choices, decent food kids and parents are willing to pay for, and less wasted time and effort.

The left likes to talk about sensible bi-partisan solutions that solve problems.  Here you go.  Have at it.

 

 

Steve has been recognized as the Americans For Prosperity Blogger of the Month for December 2012

Steve Mac Donald has been recognized as the AFP December Blogger of the month

 

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