Count Chocula fuels John Kline's hostility toward healthier school meals


The road leading to the Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 was paved with good intentions. First Lady Michelle Obama's crusade to improve what kids eat during the school day was due in large measure to the fact that as many as one in three Americans are obese.

In practice, the initiative has been a monster cluster F.

The school lunch recipe for serving the country's future less sugar, sodium, and fat — and more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains — has been derided as overly prescriptive. School districts have squawked about higher food costs. Legions of kids have deemed some of the meals so unpalatable that more sustenance is actually making its way into trashcans than their bodies.

It's resulted in one million fewer students eating lunch at school in 2014 than when the first round of the nutritional standards kicked in two years ago, according to the School Nutrition Association (SNA), a group representing school cafeteria workers that's mostly bankrolled by big food companies. 

Count Republican John Kline, Minnesota's Most Reprehensible Congressman (TM), as one of the nutrition initiative's most high-profile naysayers.  

“These regulations have created an environment where students are not getting the nourishment they need, and food and taxpayer dollars wind up in the trashcan,” said Kline on Tuesday during a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on federal child nutrition programs.

Kline and other GOP lawmakers are teaming up with the SNA to roll back the standards. They want to revert to the old standards that required only half of all grains offered to be whole-grain rich, leave sodium levels where they are until science proves further reductions benefit children, and trash the rule requiring kids to take the half cup of fruit and vegetables with every meal.

The Burnsville Republican justifies the rollback by noting that participating school districts are absorbing $3.2 billion in additional compliance costs over a five-year period. 

Ironically, Kline considers $3.2 billion over many years wasteful when it applies to kids' eating, yet chronically enables 10 times that amount annually to be poached from taxpayers by for-profit colleges.

The Minnesota branch of the American Heart Association (AHA) supports the nutritional standards. The AHA notes that 14 percent of kids in the state are obese.

"Our children’s health is on the line if the nutrition standards are rolled back," according to AHA literature.

The current school nutrition scrap is vintage Kline. Blast what is. Go back to what was. Never offer a new idea that actually might help solve the dilemma that is the epidemic of sedentary, husky-sized children.

His outspokenness comes only a few months before the implementation of more school food rules involving snacks sold in vending machines and school stores.  

Kline's lack of creative problem-solving might be explained by those who bankroll him.

General Mills, maker of sugary and sodium-filled deliciousness such as Totino's Party Pizzas and Lucky Charms, has battled against the stricter dietary rules. The company also happens to be Kline's fourth most generous campaign contributor, cutting checks totaling more than $80,000.   

Send tips to: [email protected]