Coming to a school near you: healthier food.
Moving forward on a 2010 law, the Agriculture Department last week said "it will make sure that all foods sold in the nation's 100,000 schools are healthier by expanding fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits to almost everything sold during the school day," according to The Associated Press.
Among other things, this will mean no more candy bars and high-calorie sports drinks in vending machines and cafeterias. It will also spell the end of other foods that don't meet healthier standards.
As an example, AP reported, "elementary and middle schools could sell only water, carbonated water, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, and low fat and fat-free milk, including nonfat flavored milks." There also would be, among other items, low-fat pizzas and hamburgers.
Aside from the young people, for whom the new school diet will be like sipping castor oil, the regulations have prompted concerns regarding the cost of the program.
At a congressional hearing, Sandra Ford, president of the School Nutrition Association, said "healthier foods have been expensive and participation has declined since the standards went into effect," according to AP. Ford's Bradenton, Fla., school district faces an annual loss of $975,000 in sales of foods that will no longer be available, Ford claimed.
Also, "the new meal pattern requirements have significantly increased the expense of preparing school meals, at a time when food costs were already on the rise," Ford told the hearing.
Congress also heard from the Government Accountability Office, which said new food is being wasted because students don't want to eat it.
The concerns no doubt have validity. So, too, do the cries of those who bemoan yet another incursion of the "nanny state" — that is to say, a government telling its citizens how to live their lives.
Also real, however, is the increase in childhood obesity and all that it implies, from bad health to increased medical bills.
It's tempting to glibly resort to the old Alka-Seltzer slogan, "try it, you'll like it", to convince students and administrators alike to embrace the new dietary regulations.
But there's nothing funny about childhood obesity.
Put another way, "nanny" often is right.
Remember, the idea is for Americans to enjoy healthier, longer lives.