School Lunch

Michelle Obama's America: Salt 'Black Markets' Arise in School Cafeterias

Kids need flavor packets to cope with federal guidelines

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Michelle Obama
White House Vine

Kids in a school district in Indiana have created a black market in salt packets, which they trade and sell to help mitigate the disgusting taste of the so-called healthy lunches mandated under federal guidelines.

These guidelines were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Like so many other clumsy government attempts to make people healthier by forbidding the consumption of things they like, the initiative is a costly failure.

A school administrator from Hartford City, Indiana, recently told a House subcommittee that a "contraband economy" in food flavoring packets had arisen in response to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, according to The Washington Free Beacon:

"Perhaps the most colorful example in my district is that students have been caught bringing–and even selling–salt, pepper, and sugar in school to add taste to perceived bland and tasteless cafeteria food," said John S. Payne, the president of Blackford County School Board of Trustees in Hartford City, Indiana.

"This 'contraband' economy is just one example of many that reinforce the call for flexibility [with the rules]," he said.

Payne noted other problems with the "one-size-fits-all" approach to providing healthier meals to students, including fewer kids participating in the program and higher food waste. The trend started in 2012, when the school lunch law, which was championed by Mrs. Obama, went into effect.

"Students are avoiding cafeteria food," Payne said. "More students bring their lunch, and a few parents even 'check out' their child from campus, taking them to a local fast-food restaurant or home for lunch."

Payne also said school fundraisers like bake sales, have been canceled due to the rules, and "whole-grain items and most of the broccoli end up in the trash" in his district.

Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (clearly a well-named law, in Opposite Land), more children are foregoing school lunches, throwing away food, and consuming fast food instead. Some students have also complained that the new portions are smaller and grosser.

Now, it's true that public school lunches have always been kind of disgusting. Americans shouldn't come away from this thinking that everything would have been fine if the First Lady had kept her turnip-grubbing mitts off their kids' lunches. The reality is that government-run lunch programs will always produce unsavory meals—which is why Reason's Baylen Linnekin has called for the total separation of school lunch and the state.

In the meantime, at least kids are learning something valuable about how markets work.

More from Reason on Michelle Obama's lame attempts to make America healthier here.