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A failed experiment with healthy school meals

As part of a campaign against obesity, the Los Angeles Unified School District banned sodas from campuses in 2004. It then moved on to nix the sale of junk food during the school day. But this fall, officials took their biggest step to date: feeding their captive charges what authorities consider a healthier menu.

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that one day’s lunch menu included black bean burgers, tostada salad and fresh pears. But instead of sampling the fare, two juniors pulled three bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and soda from their backpacks.

” ‘This is our daily lunch,’ Iraides Renteria said. ‘We’re eating more junk food now than last year.’ ”

What? More unintended consequences of coercion?

“For many students, L.A. Unified’s trailblazing introduction of healthful school lunches has been a flop. … Many of the meals are being rejected en masse,” the Times reports.

Participation in the school lunch program has dropped by thousands of students. Principals report massive waste, with uneaten entrees being tossed.

Acknowledging the complaints, L.A. Unified’s food services director, Dennis Barrett, announced this month that the menu would be revised. Hamburgers will be brought back, and some of the more exotic dishes are out, including the beef jambalaya, vegetable curry, and lentil and brown rice cutlets. The district is even bringing back pizza — albeit it with a whole wheat crust, and low-fat cheese.

On campus, entrepreneurial adults — including a Junior ROTC officer and an art teacher — have been found selling black-market candy, chips and instant noodles to hungry students, the Times reports.

“I compare it to Prohibition,” Vanderbok said.

Precisely. Should kids be taught about health and nutrition? Sure. Should they be given healthier alternatives to corn dogs, doughnuts and nachos? Sure. But “alternatives” imply choice.

It just goes to show: If you want to run a successful Nanny State, you’ve got to eliminate this “competition” business, this idea of “choice.” In the end, they’re going to end up needing a lot more guards and some barbed wire.

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