Once again Faux News feels the necessity of providing a platform for a radical right “think tank” to promote their agenda of attacking the least fortunate among us. This time they brought in Joy Pullman from the Heartland Institute to attack a program to feed children living in poverty.
The Heartland Institute is a “think tank” which was founded in 1984 with a ” mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems,” according to their mission statement on their website. Among other things they promote the denial of climate change and the elimination of all government run social programs, in other words, no safety nets for the poor.
At issue is an expansion of the free school lunch and breakfast programs for the children of poverty. Under the pilot program, about to be launched in ten states, schools in high poverty areas will be given the opportunity to participate in a universal free meal program.
According to the USDA:
” The Community Eligibility Option will allow schools in high-poverty areas to provide free breakfasts and lunch to all students, using preexisting data to determine the eligibility of kids to receive free nutrition assistance. The determination is based on the percentage of households in that community who are already participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamp Program. By streamlining the eligibility and enrollment process, no additional application is required to provide much need nutrition assistance to children in need.”
Enter Elizabeth Hasselbeck and Joy Pullman.
Pullman makes the claim that these children do not need more to eat, many, she says are already obese, proving that they are not going hungry. She is oblivious to the fact that obesity is often an indicator of malnutrition. The poor often consume empty calories which alleviate hunger but offer no nutritional value.
She claims that, “The federal school lunch program, the reason that it exists is actually a collusion between big agribusiness and big government, and what it ends up doing is raising food prices for the poor and middle class, it makes kids more fat, and it also has the effect of making families — depriving them of their ability and the privilege and joy of providing for their own children.”
The joy and privilege of providing for their children? Does she actually believe that these people would not love to be able to do so? They utilize these programs because this is the only way they have of providing for their children, not because they are lazy and not because the government will not allow them to do any different.
She goes on to assert that program amounts to, “Maxing out our kids’ credit cards in order to give them more calories that they probably don’t need and reduce their family’s input into the kind of meals that they’re having.”
Again she is distorting the facts. The USDA guidelines say:
“School lunchs [sic] must meet meal pattern and nutrition standards based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The current meal pattern increases the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the school menu. The meal pattern’s dietary specifications set specific calorie limits to ensure age-appropriate meals for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Other meal enhancements include gradual reductions in the sodium content of the meals (sodium targets must be reached by SY 2014-15, SY 2017-18 and SY 2022-23). While school lunches must meet Federal meal requirements, decisions about what specific foods to serve and how they are prepared are made by local school food authorities. [United States Department of Agriculture, September 2013]”
According to findings by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “school meals programs increase children’s intake of key nutrients,” and that a study has shown that girls from homes where food security is an issue, “who participated in the school lunch program were 71 percent less likely to be at risk of becoming overweight than girls who did not participate in the program”. This directly contradicts the assertions made by Ms. Pullman.
The Food Research and Action Center has published similar findings on obesity and hunger saying, “Obesity is a major public health problem in the U.S. While all segments of the population are affected, low-income and food insecure people are especially vulnerable due to the additional risk factors associated with poverty, including limited resources, limited access to healthy and affordable foods, and limited opportunities for physical activity. Even individuals who are highly motivated can have difficulty eating healthy and being active if their environments do not support or allow such behaviors (Institute of Medicine, 2009).”
So no, Ms. Pullman this is not a boondoggle for big agribusiness at the expense of poor children and their parents, this is an attempt to fight the obesity that you think is ‘proof’ that they are not hungry after all and to provide these children with a healthy diet. You and Faux News should be ashamed of yourselves for continuing to attack the least fortunate in this country, if you truly cared you would be supporting this program rather than disparaging it with distortions and outright denial of the facts.