Consider the mandate of the U.S. Department of Agriculture: agriculture policy, helping farmers and ranchers, the national school lunch program, food stamps and, now, circumventing parents.
A USDA blog post tutors grandparents — not parents — helping their grandchildren to develop healthful eating habits. Apparently the USDA thinks grandparents didn't get it right the first time or they're so old they've forgotten what they fed their own kids. USDA nutritionist Trish Britten writes:
As a proud grandmother, I can attest that grandkids learn by example … so be a healthy role model by taking care of yourself and they will learn to value healthy habits. Use ChooseMyPlate. gov to guide your food choices and better understand the nutrition needs of young children.
If that had been all of Ms. Britten's lesson, no real harm done, but this is a government bureaucrat, so why stop at one suggested government service ( Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.) where there are many more rules to promote?
The article continues:
Offer snack foods that help meet their daily food group needs. … Reward them with your attention. Hugs are much better than sweet treats. … Dance, run, and play hopscotch or soccer with them when they're full of energy — it's fun and healthy for both of you! Show your grandchild games, activity sheets and other fun ways to learn about good nutrition at MyPlate Kids' Place. For a bedtime story, read The Two Bite Club.
“The Two Bite Club” is a USDA book about how to try all the foods from MyPlate by tasting two bites of each. The USDA helpfully explains that the book is in English and Spanish and is meant to teach young children the government guidelines for a healthful diet. Of course, that diet doesn't include candy, so grandparents are supposed to give hugs instead. Meanwhile, the MyPlate logo cost taxpayers $2 million and the MyPlate Kids' Place cost millions more.
The problem with all this government concern and caring is that nowhere is it explained why this is the business of the federal government in the first place, nor is it clear why parents have been removed from the equation.
It is true that the percentage of grandparents who serve as caregivers to their grandchildren has risen since the recession in 2007. But so far the peak is 4 percent of American kids. Why is the USDA spending money focused on such exceptional circumstances?
In reality, the answer is the problem. The Department of Agriculture has no business publishing books that proselytize for its version of nutritious eating, period. Not to mention that redesigning the old food pyramid was wasteful since it had already been updated in 2005.
But the USDA, like every other Cabinet department, has gotten so big and so brazen that it has taken on the role of nanny-knows-best and this is but one example of that effort. It wastes taxpayer money while failing to produce useful results. And by removing parents from the equation, the USDA is undermining the bedrock value of parents, not government, as primary caregiver.
Abby W. Schachter, a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum, lives in Regent Square and blogs about the intersection of government policy and parenting at captainmommy.com.