Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

What’s next? Yogurt a federal mandate?

Wayne Hoffman

I don’t know whether Idaho’s public schools should be serving Greek yogurt or not. But I wonder if I’m the only one who views negatively the announcement this month that Idaho would get to be a pilot state for a federal program to serve Greek yogurt in school lunchrooms.

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo applauded loudly the decision from our federal overlords.

“Our masters in the land of Washington, D.C., doth proclaim that Greek yogurt hence forth shall be served throughout the land. Huzzah!” Crapo said.

All right, he didn’t actually say that. That’s just what I read him to say.

Actually, his words were these: “I commend the USDA for choosing to implement this pilot program for Greek yogurt in Idaho schools. Greek yogurt is one of the country’s fastest growing industries, and I hope USDA will continue the important process of making this healthy food option increasingly available to young Americans.”

Crapo is excited, of course, because Twin Falls is home to the world’s largest Greek yogurt plant. But Crapo isn’t the only one excitedly playing up the announcement. Remember, USDA decided that four states should serve as pilots for this little experiment.

Here’s the view from New York Sen. Chuck Schumer: “Starting this school year, students across the state will be balancing New York-made Greek yogurt on their lunch trays. I am thrilled that New York schools will have a chance to participate in the first-ever Greek yogurt pilot program in September.”

Of course, Schumer is thrilled for the reasons Crapo enumerated: It benefits his constituent businesses. Were New York not a dairy state with Greek yogurt operations, I doubt he would be touting the product.

Same with our Sen. Crapo. A few years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find an Idaho politician peddling Greek yogurt. Now that Greek yogurt is an Idaho value-added commodity, it demands our politicians’ immediate attention. Suddenly, Greek yogurt is as nutritious as a potato.

But maybe Greek yogurt really is a healthy food choice. Truth be told, I eat my share of it. I think it is nutritious, and it is tasty. If local school officials agree with me that it is the case, there should be nothing stopping schools from writing deals with Chobani and other yogurt makers to serve yogurt in area lunchrooms. It really shouldn’t require U.S. senators to appeal to the judgment and sensibilities of a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. If it does require federal permission to serve a healthy product to kids, the response from Crapo and others should be outraged.

Crapo and Schumer may celebrate USDA’s verdict on a Greek yogurt pilot project. They may see it as a victory for business and schoolchildren alike, but I find the whole affair very difficult to swallow.

The only politicians who ought to be involved in deciding school lunch menus are the ones elected to serve on local school boards. The idea that politicians in the United States Senate are negotiating with federal government agencies to plan what our kids eat is repugnant to a free society.

Wayne Hoffman

Wayne Hoffman

Wayne Hoffman is the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a non-partisan educational research institute and government watchdog.

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