Congress Tells Schoolchildren "Screw Your Health"

The omnibus $1.1 trillion spending bill that has passed the House and Senate and is on its way to the White House for President Obama's signature is full of special-interest concessions, including plums for the insurance and casino industries.

But it also represents a victory for the laughably named School Nutrition Association, a group of school food-service providers that claims to be "committed to advancing the quality for school meal programs through education and advocacy."

What the SNA advocates, among other things, is opposition to provisions of Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative, especially those related to reduced sodium in school meals and the integration of more whole grains into school menu standards like pasta and tortillas.

The spending bill repeals required sodium reduction, on the grounds that there is no scientific research proving that "the reduction is beneficial for children." The bill also permits states to issue waivers to school districts that claim it would be a "hardship" to substitute whole grains for refined flour in their recipes. The obvious beneficiaries of these provisions, other than school food-service companies, which may now continue business as usual, are the fast-food and wholesale food purveyors, much of whose food would be inedible without high levels of salt, and whose bottom lines would likely be affected by the necessity to switch to whole-grain products.

Another food-related provision in the bill bans the government from monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from manure or bovine flatulence, and forbids the Army Corps of Engineers to apply the Clean Water Act to farm ponds and irrigation canals.