CA Gov Bans 'Lunch-Shaming' in Public Schools

P. Gardner Goldsmith | October 15, 2019
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California’s political class appears to be focused on embarrassing its taxpayers.

The latest example of their missteps? CA Governor Gavin Newsom just signed into law what is being touted as a “ban on lunch-shaming”.

No more “Lunch-shaming”.

That’s not a ban on child-vs-child mockery for one kid not having a Twinkie in his lunchbox when he sits in the cafeteria – as silly as a ban on that might be. This is sillier, and, of course, more expensive, more collectivist, and more invasive of parental boundaries.

Newsom’s “ban on lunch-shaming” is an expansion of government food handouts shouldered by taxpayers.

According to collectivists, “lunch-shaming” occurs when a government school sees that a family has not paid what the school claims it owes for “school” lunches, breakfasts, snacks, or whatever food the school doles out (and many students protest calling it “food”), and the administration gives the student a different meal than what the other kids are “gifted”.

In other words, when one family hasn’t paid all the tax-subsidized school lunch fees, their child doesn’t go hungry at all. He or she is simply given an even cheaper meal—

Which is seen by crocodile-tear-shedding progressives as “bad”.

According to Andrew Keshner, of MarketWatch:

California joined the small group of states that ban “lunch shaming,” where kids are given alternative, often less appetizing, meals if their families are behind on cafeteria payments. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed the bill Saturday, which requires all children get the same meal, even if their family isn’t up to date on their meal fees. The rule applies from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Which helps reveal the range of incomprehensibility that collectivism displays across the US. Just a few months ago, I reported on a Pennsylvania school district that sent letters to the parents of kids with “unpaid lunch fees” -- letters telling them the county government might seize their kids because of the “unpaid fees”.

Now, in California, Newsom and his pals want to be sure that no kid is given a tax-subsidized meal that might “hurt his feelings.”

This is the same state that in 2013 was found to have misappropriated millions in tax cash targeted for school food, steering it onto things like sprinklers and payments to school television station employees.

This is the same state that not only taxes people who don’t have kids in school, it gets federal subsidies to add to the graft, and even after all that, nutrition experts and kids alike find it lacking.

As Eleanor Yang Su writes, in 2008, the state food (in the appetizing terminology of Soviet Union) shoved at kids in government schools was found to be pretty nasty.

About 30 percent of school districts exceeded the saturated fat limit. Four out of five districts exceeded recommended sodium levels. More than 200 of about 860 districts and charter schools reviewed failed to meet three or more nutritional standards. State regulators are required to analyze school lunches a minimum of once every five years, but more than 100 districts and charter schools have gone at least that long without an inspection.

And, as CBS reported in 2012, the more “nutritious” many schools make their proffered meals, the more they disgust the kids who receive them. One LA student the network interviewed said:

It tastes bad. It looks bad. It doesn’t even look like it’s real food.

Another observed:

The healthier it gets, the more disgusting it is.

Meanwhile, on the other end, UCLA’s Associate Vice Provost of the “Healthy Campus Initiative” Wendy Slusser told interviewers:

It is common sense to serve a child healthy food. The big question is, why aren’t we all doing this? And it is because it is a shift, and change takes time.

Funny, but when I want to eat healthy food,  and I’m free of the collectivist “WE”, I buy it. It takes only as much time as the transaction requires. As I noted in a 2004 piece for the Mises Institute, markets respond to consumer demand. They don’t force people to buy anything. In fact, one 7-11 store owner I interviewed hoped that Americans remember the obvious: shelf-space is allocated based on what sells. If people want more bananas and berries, he will stock them.

Likewise, if consumers don’t like the taste of a restaurant’s food, the owner has an incentive to make it better.

But this isn’t how any government system works. Government systems don’t have to cater to consumer demand, because there isn’t any consumer demand. It’s all predicated on force – a top-down system of predation wherein leftists trot out any number of heart-tugging figures in order to solidify, perpetuate, and expand their lock on funds and power. They pretend to “care” by forcing others to pay.

Take the “caring” Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger-Free America, a “non-partisan non-profit that helps low-income families receive government benefits and advocates for hunger-ending policies”:

No one should be taking a victory lap in the war against child hunger by banning the relatively rare practice that never should have been legal to begin with.

The ethics and legality of taking other people’s money to subsidize an education system, and further subsidize the provision of food that kids repeatedly say is awful and not the best for them appear to have slipped past Mr. Berg’s radar screen. Likewise, it seems that the single most important driver to lift families out of poverty is also missed by all of these government players who like to play games with other folks’ earnings.

That driver is liberty, especially in the form of free markets.

As Thomas Sowell notes in comments on Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” welfarism, black Americans were improving their lives better prior to the tax redistribution scheme and huge government intervention:

In various skilled trades, the incomes of blacks relative to whites more than doubled between 1936 and 1959 — that is, before the magic 1960s decade when supposedly all progress began. The rise of blacks in professional and other high-level occupations was greater in the five years preceding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than in the five years afterwards.

Ball State University professor Steven Horwitz observes that American standards of living get better, decade after decade:

For example, the percentage of American households below the poverty line who have basic appliances has grown steadily over the last few decades, with poor families in 2005 being more likely to own things like a clothes dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, or air conditioner than the average household was in 1971. And consumer items that didn’t even exist back then, such as cell phones, were owned by half of poor households in 2005 and are owned by a substantial majority of them today.

Can we not expect these improvements in the provision and availability of consumer goods to translate to the availability of food?

Of course we can. And we can also see it translate into the provision of information that kids and parents can use for education.

There is no need for “food-shaming” over public school meals because there is no need or moral prerogative to force people to pay for public school meals.