“Nanny State” Trans-fat School Lunch Ban Clears Senate Committee

February 17, 2012

Are the cheeseburger's days numbered in school lunches? (Wiki Photo)

DENVER, CO – How many parents pack a school lunch that’s healthy and appeals to their young child’s appetite longings? Imagine the emotional pain inflicted by a government regulator telling a child that their parent was guilty of corrupting their child with an illegal lunch.

It happened to a youngster in North Carolina this week when government inspectors deemed a mom had packed an unhealthy lunch of a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, banana, chips and apple juice. The lunch was confiscated like contraband and the child wound up eating three chicken nuggets of a school-prepared lunch – and the parent was reprimanded and charged $1.25.

The child was humiliated, the parent’s right was usurped and the local school board’s control was seized by big government.

That, according to state Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch) is the problem with Senate Bill 68 – a state-mandate banning trans-fat – typically found in margarine, shortening and processed foods – in school lunches inColorado’s school districts.

“If we do this, then what’s next?” asked Harvey. “This is what’s next – you have government run amok!”

If enacted, Republican legislators believe the law could open the door to government food inspectors determining whether a homemade school lunch or homeroom holiday party cupcake meets government standards of legal “healthy” food for kids.

The debut of the bill, however, was amended to be more palatable to Republicans by exempting foods for fundraising, vending machines, homemade lunches and districts with a less than a thousand students – at least for now.

The bill passed the Senate Agricultural Committee on a split party vote, 4 -3, opposed by Republican Senators Harvey, Greg Brophy and Kevin Grantham.

“All that I heard from my district related to this bill is that we are doing a fine job without the state telling us how to feed our kids; thank you very much for the concern, now leave this up to us,” Brophy (R-Wray) told the Colorado Observer.

“This is the third effort that I remember to micro-manage the food available at schools by the legislature; there is nothing to make me think that this will be the last,” said Brophy. “You can bet there will be more to come.  The nanny-state never sleeps.”

Testifying for the bill, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Lucia Guzman of Denverand Republican Rep. Tom Massey of Poncha Springs, were several individuals representing the Heart Association, all of whom talked about trans-fats leading to heart disease, strokes, diabetes and obesity.

For example, Sheri Foote of Arvada said, “I went through a triple bypass surgery on the day before my 39th birthday.”

Foote, a competitive dancer, said she had not smoked tobacco products and attributed her heart problems to having eaten trans-fat-laden foods since she was a child. But, she admitted that her mother had a history of heart disease.

Grantham questioned why the bill would apply now to school districts with more than a thousand students instead of those with 500 or 5,000 students.

“We tried to look at the idea that very smallest school districts would have the very hardest time financially to be able to make that change from these kinds of foods to this kind of food,” conceded Guzman. “We chose (that number) because we just thought that would be a good option, and we tried figure out which one you would actually vote for.”

“I appreciate the gesture for rural schools would take a significant hit,” countered Sen. Grantham. “But there are more rural schools than just a thousand and under.”

He said the state has no business mandating what school districts serve to students, and if changes are made it should be driven by the parents of students in those communities.

Though some of those testifying for the bill are associated with the Boulder Valley School District that implemented the no trans-fat diet, it’s not the only school district that has adopted a ban.

In the heart of Republican-dominated El Paso County,Colorado Springs School District 11 has been lauded by the local Chamber of Commerce for implementing the “Good Food Project.”

The school district promotes its healthy food policy that not only bans trans-fats, but also cakes, desserts, chocolate milk (except in high schools), chicken fried steak, corn dogs, hotdogs, pretzels, cheesy breadsticks and chicken nuggets.

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