A lot of kids would rather go hungry than eat something they don't like. Or something they think they don't like.
Nowhere has that been more apparent than the lunchrooms of Lake County schools, which put a new rule into place last fall that required kids to take at least one serving of fruit or vegetables.
As a result, Lake County officials estimate they will dump about $75,000 worth of untouched cups of broccoli and apples in the garbage this year.
Just another example of wasting public dollars because government wants to act like Big Mother, right? Not only is government trying to control us, but it's now nagging first-graders to eat their carrots.
Not so fast. Before you condemn this as the latest example of misguided government intrusion, ask yourself if you would say the same about government mandated health warnings on alcohol and tobacco.
Are those out of line, too?
It's true that the food police have cracked down in recent years. You can hardly dip a tortilla chip in queso without hearing about the perils of sodium and fat.
Heck, a group of bacon lovers in Iowa who simply wanted to celebrate their love of the salty, fatty strips couldn't even hold the annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival without a group of nosy doctors wagging their stethoscopes. The doctors bought billboards warning of bacon's hazards, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Bacon-hating doctors. City councils trying to regulate Happy Meals. Schools that request we nix the cupcakes for fruit kebabs on our child's birthday. When it comes to what we eat, that kind of know-it-all attitude makes a lot of us bristle.
We like our independence as much as we like our food in this country and most of us think we know when to say when on the sugar, salt and fat.
But the truth is that most of us don't. That's why we're battling epidemics of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. And our children are often the victims.
And that's why there's no better place to begin that fight than in the schools with the youngest students who are still impressionable enough to form good habits.
It's not a surprise Lake County schools need time to adjust to the new rule — a federal change all schools must comply with at the beginning of next school year.
I am highly experienced in the forms of passive resistance and outright revolt kids are capable of when it comes to eating. I deal with it nightly at my own dinner table. But as parents and school officials, we learn to stick to our guns and, eventually, the baked chicken and green beans disappear from the plates.
You also learn to make adjustments and compromise a little. That's why in my house green beans get dipped in ketchup and eating chicken is sometimes rewarded with a chocolate dessert. (Hey, I'm a parent, not a miracle worker.)
Gary Dodds, Lake County's food-service supervisor, told me the students adjusted after a few months. Sure, there is still some waste, but it's decreased. The schools have done a better job of finding fruits and vegetables kids like and ... gasp ... the kids are actually starting to eat the stuff.
You might say that we still don't need government to meddle in our diets because habits should start at home. And I agree.
That's why state Sen. Ronda Storms is on to something with her attempt to ban the purchase of junk food with food stamps. If people want to use their own money to buy Little Debbie snack cakes and soda, go right ahead.
Call me Debbie Downer, but I don't want to foot the bill for what causes many of the illnesses we pay for again when Medicaid patients show up in the hospital with complications from diabetes.
People can complain when it comes to being told how their own money should be spent on food. But when it comes to taxpayer money, rules to encourage better health are the sensible thing to do.
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