Is it really about kids, tater tots or anti-Obama?

Robert Houk • Oct 1, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Healthy school lunches

Seem a no-brainer.

Reducing fat and sugar

Couldn’t be saner.

Unless proposed by

The party not of Roe.

Phil, you epitomize

The politics of No!

The above is a poem sent to me Wednesday by Joan Elliott of Unicoi. It was among several emails to the Press last week in response to a NET News Service story in our paper Monday detailing Congressman Phil Roe’s opposition to new federal nutritional guidelines for school lunches. A few of those letters appear in today’s Forum on the Opinion/Editorial page, along with a column Roe wrote for The Hill’s website explaining why he thinks those requirements are an “overreach” of government.

Most of the folks we heard from last week say Roe is the one overreaching in his opposition to all things Obama. In this case, the Republican congressman is challenging benchmarks from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for school lunch menus. These are part of an initiative pushed by first lady Michelle Obama to tackle childhood obesity.

“Roe defends the rights of our schools to serve unlimited tater tots — all because he doesn’t like the politics of the first lady, who champions better nutrition for our kids,” writes Margaret Callcott of Kingsport.

Roe believes limits on caloric intake are not something that Uncle Sam should be doing. He writes that one school official even told him that restricting calories will force lunchroom servers to count the number of tater tots they place on a student’s plate. (What will the Stalinists in the Obama administration think of next?)

One reader has suggested that if a school system doesn’t want to abide by the federal guidelines, it should give up the federal funds it receives and serve students whatever junk food it likes.

The tater tot controversy is ridiculous given what is at stake — the health and nutrition of Tennessee’s children. Earlier this month, a report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found more than half the Americans in 39 states will be obese by 2030, with Tennessee predicted to be at a 63 percent obesity level.

We mustn’t forget that obesity and diabetes go hand in hand, and Tennessee is among the top five states in the prevalence of Type II diabetes in children.

Roe says the tater tot controversy is not about obesity or even childhood diabetes. It’s about government control. Fair enough, but I believe Uncle Sam has a duty to ask that schools offer more than tater tots on their lunch menus.

Left to their own devices, some school systems would serve nothing but the cheapest, prepackaged processed foods available. It’s not that these school systems don’t care about the health and well-being of their students. I think they do. They just don’t know how to do it on a limited budget.

Maybe, Roe — the fierce anti-taxer — can enlighten these school systems on how they can stretch their food dollars, while Roe — the doctor — can tell how to serve healthier tater tots.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at [email protected]

Recommended for You

    Johnson City Press Videos