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Kline: Don’t mandate school diets

Congress held hearings today on nutrition in schools, where Rep. John Kline cautioned against federal food mandates.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The battle lines have been drawn over childhood hunger and obesity and, once again, they seem to be entrenching around the scope of government intervention.

Rep. John Kline, during an Education and Labor Committee hearing on reauthorizing federal nutrition programs, warned against the long arm of the federal government stretching too far into school cafeterias. He urged that most decisions on school nutrition be made instead on a local level.

“I would caution as we prepare to renew and extend these (nutrition) programs that we not confuse support for a healthy school environment with federal mandates for what children and their families are allowed to eat,” Kline said. “One report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that radical changes might actually undermine participation in the school lunch program, saying ‘If schoolchildren are not satisfied with the taste of foods served in school meals, participation in school meal programs is likely to decrease.'”

Meanwhile, panel Chairman George Miller of California prepared his committee for a broad outreach effort, the stated goal of which is to “change the way children eat.”

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“Our work to reauthorize our child nutrition programs presents a great opportunity to change the way children eat, to expand their access to nutritious meals and to end the child hunger crisis in our country,” Miller said. “We must ensure that schools have the support they need to provide high-quality and safe meals so kids can make healthy choices. We must also ensure that all eligible children can actually access these programs by removing barriers families face when enrolling in the school meal programs, like confusing application forms.”

While today’s discussion centered around school meals, it’s worth noting that the reauthorization is much more broad, also including programs like WIC, the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

Food seems to be a common topic in Washington this week though — on the minds of the White House press corps as reporters clogged the arteries of Monday’s White House press briefing with question after question on cholesterol and the president’s love of pie. A test over the weekend showed President Obama’s cholesterol was slightly high, an increase spokesman Robert Gibbs blamed it on his affinity for the delectable creations of White House pastry chefs.

Four words not mentioned during the briefing, according to a transcript provided by the White House: Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and Chile (the country, not the food).