EDITORIAL: Hypocrisy on the White House menu

A congressman proposes the president and the missus eat what others eat

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Some people can’t resist telling other people what to eat. There’s no room on the menu for trans fats. No salt, no sodas. Milkshakes are out, arugula is in. With everything that tastes good erased from the menu, the government’s cafeterias set tables with food blander than ever, but you wouldn’t know it at the White House mess.

At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, world-class chefs put nine different fattening pies on the Thanksgiving Day menu, including chocolate cream and pecan. The feast would satisfy the most demanding gourmand. The last time British Prime Minister David Cameron was in town, he dined with President Obama on crisped halibut with potato crust, served on a bed of braised baby kale. Bison Wellington in a red wine reduction arrived as the main course, followed by a warm Meyer lemon steamed pudding.

Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, a Republican, thinks the president could use an extra helping of humble pie. He says that if the administration wants to tell everyone else what to eat, the standards it imposes on school cafeterias ought to be good enough for the cafeterias at the White House and at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mr. Davis says the latest school lunch nutritional standards imposed by the USDA may be well-intentioned, but they make it “harder for school districts to do their job, leading to increased costs, decreased participation and, in some cases, hungry children.”

The nutritional standards for the school-lunch program set calorie ranges and impose weekly limits on consumption of grains and meat. The authors of the dietary health books, “Wheat Belly” and “Grain Brain,” may approve of the former and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals may applaud the latter, but the new menus aren’t satisfying those who actually queue for the lunch lady. Brussels sprouts and broccoli, whether from Mrs. Obama’s White House garden or not, may be nutritional powerhouses, but they do no good if nobody eats them. Garbage cans in school cafeterias are more well-nourished than ever.

“Unfortunately, Washington is not getting the message,” says Mr. Davis. The Government Accountability Office looked into the issue at the request of Congress, and in the majority of school districts it visited, administrators complained that the new school-lunch requirements leave many students hungry and increase the costs of school lunchrooms. Most district chefs say the meat and grain maximums make it difficult to plan menus. To achieve compliance, some districts add foods that “do not improve the nutritional value of lunches,” such as ice cream, butter and cheese sauce.

Even state dinners wouldn’t escape the reach of Mr. Davis‘ School Nutrition Fairness Act, which requires that “each official meal served at the White House … shall be in compliance with nutrition for school meals.” So much for tuna tartare and creme brulee. Will the Obamas put their mouths where our money is?

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