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EDITORIAL: Schools serving healthier fare regardless of federal school lunch regulations

Back in May, the Trump administration announced plans to revisit school lunch regulations issued by Barack Obama and intended to force schoolchildren to eat healthful fare. Critics — as measured as ever — accused Donald Trump of conspiring to allow McDonald’s or Colonel Sanders to take over the nation’s school cafeterias.

In fact, the move was simply recognition that local input and flexibility are far preferable to one-size-fits-all federal mandates. And now that viewpoint is being vindicated — by The New York Times, no less, which noted last week that, “Many districts are already improving school meals without intervention.”

The new rules led to massive waste, as students threw out the less tasteful menu items. One study published in Public Health Reports found that requiring kids to take a fruit or vegetable actually led to a decrease in consumption of such foodstuffs and increased waste by 56 percent.

Rolling back the detailed nutrition mandates — implemented at the urging of Michelle Obama, who made it her signature issue as first lady — makes sense on many levels and provides districts with more freedom to serve regional foods and to recognize local preferences. For instance, the Times reports that rigid federal guidelines for grains complicated the equation for districts hoping to offer bagels, rice, tortillas, biscuits or pasta.

“People want less regulation,” one nutrition expert told the paper. “But that doesn’t mean people in every district in the country are not coming up with ways to make food better.”

Imagine that. Progress doesn’t always depend on the paternalistic hand of big government. That’s a much-needed lesson for champions of the ever-expanding Nanny State.

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