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The Trump Health Ideology in Action

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They have more ways to kill you than just taking away your health care. It’s a multifaceted war on you.

The Trump administration took aim Monday at two signature programs of the former first lady Michelle Obama, rolling back her efforts to promote healthy school lunches nationwide and potentially rebranding her program to educate adolescent girls abroad.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that school meals would no longer have to meet some requirements connected with Mrs. Obama’s initiative to combat childhood obesity by overhauling the nation’s school menus.

The nutrition regulations were part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and were advocated by Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. For the last five years, schools have been required to reduce the amount of calories, fat and sodium in their cafeterias and increase offerings of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nonfat milk to the roughly 32 million students who receive federally subsidized meals.

Beginning next school year, schools can request an exemption from the whole grain requirements and delay the sodium mandate. They will also be able to serve 1 percent flavored milk instead of nonfat.

Mr. Perdue said the Obama-era rules had resulted in increased costs for school districts and declining participation in the federal school lunch program. He said relaxing the rules was part of the administration’s effort to “make school meals great again.”

“If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program,” said Mr. Perdue, who announced the changes with a signed proclamation on Monday after having lunch with students at Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Va. Mr. Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, was just confirmed last week.

Nutrition advocates said the move by the Trump administration was shortsighted.

“Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn’t mean they should,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group. “The president’s fondness for Big Macs and KFC is well known, but we shouldn’t let Colonel Sanders and McDonald’s run the school cafeteria.”

I believe Trump has named Colonel Sanders Secretary of the Army, so I think he’s in charge of the school cafeteria as well. All this salty, fatty, unhealthy food the kids will be shoveling down their throats will surely not cause preexisting conditions that would make health care impossible in Paul Ryan’s dystopia!

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  • sigaba

    Is their justification for this, literally, “kids aren’t eating the healthy stuff so we’re making it less healthy”?

    • leftwingfox

      Yep, then ensure they’re priced out of health care for making the wrong choices when it comes to food.

    • ExpatJK

      That may be the explanation that they said out loud. The true explanation is “fuck poor kids.”

    • I hear they’re also mandating that all red meat be cooked well done and served with ketchup.

    • Warren Terra

      Is their justification for this, literally, “kids aren’t eating the healthy stuff so we’re making it less healthy”?

      Your mistake is to look for anything resembling an argument. Studies show that (1) the compliant food is no more expensive; and (2) the kids receiving healthier lunches eat them (it’s possible they enjoy them less, but they reject/waste no more food than with unhealthy lunches).

      The closest thing I’ve seen to an actual argument is Heritage and Cultural Identity: the program stresses whole grains and discourages milled grains, and some Southern Cracker of a politicianwho couldn’t possibly have any issues with the Obamas was concerned about the implications for cafeterias wishing to serve Grits.

  • PunditusMaximus

    So from what I’ve read, implementing good school lunch programs requires having specific large prep tools, a well-trained cookstaff, and nutritionists who understand budgets to do careful meal planning.

    If you do that, you can usually hit kids’ palattes pretty well, because the food is both good and aimed at them.

    But that requires capital investments, paid staff, and the belief that feeding children well matters, and those are not characteristic of American society as a whole.

  • Rob in CT

    Sigh.

    School lunch is such crap. We allow our daughter to buy lunch 1x per week. Thankfully, since we have fed her pretty healthily at home, she tends to only want 1 thing per week (sometimes none).

    It’s such garbage. Yes, they have reasonable sides – carrot sticks, apples, etc. But the main meals are terrible. And that’s status quo.

    • Chetsky

      Heeeey, what’s wrong with a burger -n- fries, with a Little Debbie pecan pie for dessert! HunhhhhH!

      But seriously, the stuff I ate in middle/high school. Lordy. Chicken-fried steaks. Frito Pies. Ugh.

    • wengler

      Some things never change.

  • Ronan

    What’s going on at the minute ? A lot of headlines talking about “step 1 in the repeal of the ACA”. Hyperbole or ….?

    • Ronan

      Sorry , forget it. Missed the thread below

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      I would think *not* hyperbole… repeal was always going to *originate* in the House. How many more steps? More than we’d like, probably. The vandals have the handles

      • Ronan

        They’re like cartoon villains at this stage. Really are a collection of despicable assholes.

  • Nick never Nick

    This is my cynical take on this, from some time working as a program manager at the Canadian Diabetes Association; the evidence base for school based nutrition programs doing much good on the obesity front is really weak. It’s not a bad thing for Michelle Obama to champion, but intensive programs, supported by nutritionists, counsellors, medical specialists, culturally appropriate mediators, etc., have achieved no results at all in communities that are severely impacted by childhood obesity. Fundamental determinants of health are far more important than what children eat.

    The Republicans are doing this because they are monstrous assholes, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact that this kind of program is a fig leaf for fundamental changes that are needed to address this problem.

    • Domino

      Isn’t the larger problem an admission by parents at home that they’ve engendered an unhealthy eating climate? Not to say that it’s inexcusable – maybe they’re working 2 jobs and literally have next to no free time to prep meals.

      But I can see actually why the impact would be limited – if kids are only getting healthy meals at school, it does nothing about what they have at home, or what they can snack on.

      Ezra had a great piece about this problem 6 years ago when he was with WaPo. The short answer as to how the Cleveland Clinic lowered their healthcare costs was instituting a nanny-state that severely cracked down on people for not getting healthier. It was their right as employer to do it, but would we as a society be comfortable with taking their solutions and nationalizing them?

      • Nick never Nick

        It’s too complex a subject to really get into here, but thinking of obesity as a problem of ‘food/eating’ is kind of like thinking of homelessness as a problem of ‘not having a home’. It’s impossible to say what combination of social determinants causes obesity, and how they relate to each other, but it really is a fundamental cause — you don’t get around them just by saying “OK, here’s your healthy school lunch”.

        In massive nutritional/educational interventions in high-risk populations, for example, some reserves, huge expenditures, intensive support, highly planned programs have produced no statistical change in childhood obesity. I believe one of the largest was in the Pima Indian population (if Dr. Dick is reading this, he can supply the reference).

        Obesity needs to be thought of as an intergenerational problem that affects communities with deep-rooted causes, not as an individual problem that’s fixed by making sure each kid is given fresh carrots for lunch and runs a half hour a day.

      • Nick never Nick

        And regarding the Cleveland Clinic’s approach, I’d just like to point out a few things. It is an educated population, relatively well paid, with all that implies (education signifies a high degree of self control, as does the ability to hold a job; both correlate with health).

        Smoking is very likely the most important factor — their drop in smoking behaviour is very great, compared to standard programs (I worked in one once). Smoking is also the category where it’s easiest to switch, usually to chewing tobacco or nicotine replacement therapy. With enough incentive, people will.

        ‘Control blood sugar’ includes ‘treating diabetes’. Much of their savings here might be in increased emphasis on diagnosis and treatment plans, and not diet in non-diabetics.

        Finally, this approach to health relies somewhat on stigma — it’s obviously problematic, when applied to children.

  • Marc

    I’d have to say that nonfat milk and low salt diets are not standing up well in modern studies of nutrition.

    Fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lower overall calorie intake, on the other hand, are strongly supported. So, perhaps by accident, they appear to mostly be targeting the least useful parts of the program.

    • PunditusMaximus

      It’s worthy of note that pretty much every discussion of daily nutrition dated before 2000 or so is entirely valueless.

      We know how to avoid scurvy and beriberi, so that’s good. After that, it’s mostly bad advice.

    • Karen24

      I was about to note this as well. My doctor actually encourages whole milk and butter, just not giant gobs of it. (Saturated fat actually isn’t that bad for you and it does help with satiety.)

      This particular initiative makes me pause, because I’m convinced that the reason the R’s are doing this is just to give Michelle Obama the middle finger but I also think the low fat guidelines weren’t that good in the first place.

      • efgoldman

        the reason the R’s are doing this is just to give Michelle Obama the middle finger

        Damn, but she was uppity.
        Plus, since everything Sanctus Ronaldus Magnus ever said or did is gospel truth, now ketchup is a vegetable again.

    • eclare

      Yup. This may inadvertently be the one thing the administration does that actually makes people (very slightly) healthier.

    • mch

      Certainly by accident, but I agree about salt and especially nonfat milk. I LOVE milk and drink a lot of it (and eat a lot of cheese). Nonfat milk is undrinkable. If you want to reduce fat intake (and probably a lot of children should), at least go for 1%, which is decent, so the children will actually drink it. (As with meat, so with milk: the flavor is in the fat.)

      • PunditusMaximus

        Reduce sugar intake. Fat is actually filling.

        • los

          salt, sugars (from labels):
          “100%” apple juice: 35mg, 28g
          “2%” milk: 140mg, 14g

    • ForkyMcSpoon

      I was coming here to say similar things.

      I think switching from nonfat milk is an improvement. But having flavored milk is not, due to the added sugar. So probably it ends up being worse.

      Having whole milk without flavoring would be fine, IMO.

  • The Republicans have been headed in this direction for decades. Those who aren’t their special interests — that is to say nearly everyone — are good only for the votes to elect them and pay taxes to be directed to GOP special interests, and otherwise to just be screwed.

    The real news here is that under Donald, they are having a historic success, milestones in fucking over America and we, the people.

    Democracy doesn’t’t mean shit when too many are happy to be ignorant and detached from what their so-called leaders are doing.

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