Deb Eschmeyer, the newly appointed Executive Director of Michelle Obama’s pet project—the Let’s Move Campaign—wants you to believe she’s in it for the kids. She’s no partisan. She’s not an ideologue. She just loves kids and wants what’s best for them. Isn’t she wonderful?
On Friday, The Free Beacon ran a profile on the young activists and found this quote:
I like to make sure I’m looking at the right and the left so that I don’t silo myself,” Eshmeyer said. “For example, I listen to Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a Sarah Palin 2012 t-shirt or that you’re an Obama devotee, everyone should get behind Farm to School and improving school lunch and the overall food system.
Farm to school…it sounds nice, doesn’t it? Makes you think a tractor pulls up to the school every Wednesday to unload the freshly picked crops, never mind that it’s around 12 degrees in most northern states and the ground is hard as cement. And that other line about everyone getting behind improving school lunches: yes, yes, we all want kids to eat better but is growing government’s role in how kids eat the best way to achieve that goal? Eschmeyer doesn’t seem to understand that that is the real question.
Of course, it’s not surprising that Eschmeyer doesn’t dig that deep. After all, this is a food activist that pushed to have Michelle Obama’s lunch reforms put in place—the very reforms that have led to fewer kids eating school lunch, more complaints from those who do, massive waste in school cafeterias from either 1) kids not eating the food that’s offered (and tweeting pictures of the disgusting food), or 2) kids taking the food and then depositing it straight into a trash can, and overall depression among school lunch ladies who have been told they can’t use simple ingredients like butter and salt to make food taste good (although Congress did just make a change so that schools can now begin salting food again).
Does Ms. Eschmeyer concede that the school lunch reforms have been a disaster? Does she at least concede that the USDA’s list of dos and don’ts make it very hard for schools to make palatable food. Of course not! Like any ideologue, she’s going to stay the course, unbothered by the evidence before her that the government has simply gotten in the way of true and good reforms to school lunches.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if just once, a liberal admitted that government’s the actual problem? And government meddling definitely is the problem when it comes to school lunches.
Does she know that the USDA actually sends out lists of “allowed” fruits and vegetables? If something isn’t on the list, school lunch ladies aren’t allowed to serve it. This prohibits schools from using the very produce that grows in their states (and in some cases on school grounds)? That’s right, it prevents that whole "farm to school" fantasy she talked about. If Ms. Eshmeyer truly envisions a “farm to school” scheme, she might consider getting government out of the way of the farms and out of the way of the schools.
Back to the actual food being served: It’s important to realize that kids aren’t refusing to eat the school lunches because suddenly vegetables have appeared on the plate. It’s because those vegetables are steamed and then put on the tray with ZERO flavorings. Tell me, do you know a child who eats veggies without a little salt, butter or cheese (Okay, okay, Gwinnie Paltrow’s perfect children don’t count!).
Kids are throwing away trays of food not because suddenly there’s brown rice on the plate, it’s because the brown rice, again, has nothing on it. No salt, or butter. It’s not cooked in bullion (too salty!) or anything else to flavor it. Why are people surprised kids won’t eat this gruel?
Ms. Eschmeyer replaces Sam Kass as the head of Let’s Move. He was the personal chef to the Obama’s before the President ran for the presidency. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Sam regularly made me roll my eyes—blathering on about school lunch and school gardens and things that won’t do a thing to improve the health of kids. But Sam wasn’t an activists in the traditional way and according to some in the food industry, he would at least listen to the concerns of food companies and was less conspiratorial than, say, the Michael “food is evil” Jacobsons of the world.
Eschmeyer is different. She’s a long-time food activist and founded a group called FoodCorps which is set up like AmeriCorps in that it sends young college grads into lower income area schools to set up school gardens, teach kids about food and nutrition and give cooking lessons…
Hmmm…tell kids about gardening, talk to them about how to eat right and show them some simple cooking tips. This sounds familiar…who else is supposed to do this…why can’t I think of…
MOM! And DAD! Yeah, that’s it! Parents are supposed to do this stuff, right?
Not in Eschmeyer’s world.
And let's just take a moment to debunk this idea that school gardens are the solution to childhood obesity and that kids are clueless about where food comes from unless they tend a garden. How about we teach kids about how this country is wonderful and you get to be anything you want and you don't have to be a farmer. If you want to be a farmer, that's great, go do that. But in this country, we have farmers who farm so that you and Timmy can go to the grocery store and spend more time being doctors and engineers and stay-at-home dads and moms and corporate executives and hair stylists and welders and all sorts of other things. This idea that we need kids to "grow their own food" is insane. We need kids to read and write and do basic math. Wasting time picking green beans is not going to make kids healthy (Caitlin Flanagan is brilliant on this subject). Mom and dad, and their involvement in their child's eating habits is what's going to help little Susie and Timmy stop stuffing chips and cake in their mouths. Parents telling kids to turn off the damned television and go run around is what's going to help kids stay at a healthy weight, not banning food commercials on television, which is what the Senate suggested a few years ago. Cities who spend more time on crime control in urban areas rather than taxing sodas and wasting tax dollars on "obesity cessation" programs is what's going to help parents in urban areas feel safer about letting their kids go outside. We ban pretend parents are no part of this, but they're actions (or inaction) is a big determinant in the health of their kids.
But not everyone sees the value of parenting. The growth of the school lunch program is a direct result of the Obama administration’s firm belief that parents are idiots and are incapable of doing the simplest thing—like sticking a slice of turkey inside two slices of bread.
No doubt Eschmeyer and her ilk would reply to this with the good ‘ole “but, people work two jobs” and “but people don’t have the money” and “cooking healthy is hard.”
Please. These outrageous and vaguely racist excuses always trouble me. What’s too hard? The untwisting the twist-tie on the Wonder Bread? Or is it putting the turkey on the bread? Is it figuring out how the zipper works on the lunch box? Or is it deciding between an orange, apple and banana?
Let’s Move, the White House, the First Lady and people like Eschmeyer could do a better job of helping kids stay healthy by doing a few things different.
1) Consider some innovative changes to the school lunch program: Privatization is one good example. Allow local restaurants to cater lunches. The local school can set the rules/regulations about what is served so that choices remain healthy and kids get what they want.
2) Take out the Federal Government. The real control over school lunches should be given to local officials—like the school board, parents groups, and the school nutrition officials. These folks know what kids like, the needs of certain kids, and the tastes and desires of the demographic attending that school.
3) Inform parents of the research on childhood obesity which is pretty conclusive: A high level of parental involvement = healthy kids.
I'm sure Deb Eschmeyer's a lovely person and I hope she'll truly consider other people's opinions on these topics. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but something tells me we'll get more of the same, boring narrative about the need to throw more money at the school lunch program, the need for parents to cede feeding their kids to the federal government, and more fantasy talk about farming in the middle of winter.