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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : opinions : columns July 27, 2015

1/25/2012 9:56:00 PM
Guest Column: The truth behind the school lunch opt-out bill
Special to the Courier

If ever I needed to channel Paul Harvey, now is the time. Since SB1070, I don't think I have ever witnessed more false statements, misunderstandings and outright lies than I have with the school lunch opt-out bill. So, with great respect for a radio legend, here is the rest of the story.

Approximately six years ago, a large nutrition bill worked its way through the legislature. For some reason at that time, someone decided to make school lunch participation mandatory for K-8 district grades, instead of voluntary like it had been for the past 50 years. I say for some reason because all K-8 district grades over 100 kids were already participating in the program. High schools and charter schools were exempted from the new mandate.

Fast-forward to today. The USDA updates its school lunch rules approximately every 12-15 years. This year (2012) happens to be the year that the rules are undergoing a complete overhaul. The new rules cover everything from what has to be served, what portion sizes are allowed, how much schools have to charge kids, how often schools are audited, etc. As quoted in the East Valley Tribune on January 19, Loretta Zullo, Mesa's School Foodservice Director, "said she is 'anxiously' awaiting the final approved changes to the program, which would increase the required number of fruits, vegetables and whole grain products served, as well as change how districts can calculate how much they charge. Under the first proposals put out, Zullo said it could have resulted in a lot of increased cost for the district, but she anticipated Mesa could weather it. 'It's a complicated formula,' she said of the proposed way districts must charge for meals. 'Districts may have to supplement (meal prices) from the general fund. Districts are not going to want to do that. They do not have the money to do that.'"

In anticipation of all the new rules being rolled out in 2012, I felt it would be a good idea to go back to the law Arizona districts used to follow six years ago. Besides, 41 other states let districts choose whether or not to participate in the national school lunch program. Only nine mandate it, including Arizona. Contrary to what has been reported, I am not anti-fresh fruit, anti-nutritious meals, or anti-low income children. I simply want schools to have flexibility to tackle their challenges in the best way they see fit. This is why the Arizona School Boards Association supports the bill. I firmly believe not a single child will go hungry as a result of this bill. Why else would 41 other states not feel compelled to force their districts to participate in the federal school lunch program? And why were all schools participating before the law was changed six years ago? This mandate is unnecessary.

SB1061 is a simple one-word change - "shall" to "may." Nothing more, nothing less.

Supporters of SB1061 and opponents to the bill basically disagree on one major point - can local communities and constituents be trusted to take care of the children in their charge? I firmly fall on the side of local control, freedom, and self-governance. The loudest opponents to SB1061 claim that only through mandates can people be trusted to do what is in the best interest of children. I sure hope this is not the direction we are headed as a country.

With regards to a conflict of interest, I do own a company that works in the school nutrition area. State governments hire my company to audit menus and conduct on-site audits. I do not do any reviews or audits in Arizona. I stand to gain absolutely nothing from this bill passing. And no, contrary to what a few blogs have reported, I do not provide food to Arizona schools. As Senate Education Chair I am simply trying to eliminate a mandate in state statute that takes away a local community's right to choose what is best for their children.

In conclusion, nothing is worse than a slow erosion of liberty because we never see it coming. And, as Paul Harvey would say, "now you know the rest of the story!"

Sen. Rich Crandall (R-Mesa) is chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: Oops forgot

to mention the anti Crandell article was posted and written by David Safier on another blog.

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: Crandall's your kinda man, eh Steele

The evil scheme is out, everywhere. The feds want to make school meals better for students. Fewer calories. More fruits and vegetables. More whole grains. Less salt. No trans fat. The horror!

Rich Crandall, who runs a child nutrition consulting business that makes money by advising schools and other agencies on nutrition and menus -- though not in Arizona (currently, anyway) -- thinks all this is terrible. So he's got a bill to stop the evil feds, making participation in the free/reduced meals program optional. And even more important, he has to stop Michelle Obama, who has made nutrition her signature issue, from bossing our kids around. "You're not the boss of me, Bad Obama Woman!"

Let 'em overeat whatever the hell they want in school! School has no place educating kids in proper nutrition or looking out for their general health and well-being! Oops. Um, maybe they do. Forget I just said that.

If schools take federal money, they have to follow the fed's nutrition guidelines. If they don't take the money, they can ignore the guidelines. Free/reduced lunch programs have federal grants attached. Get rid of those, and you cut the connection. That's why Crandall is going after the free/reduced lunch program.

Speculation time: If the feds set the nutrition guidelines and basic menus, schools don't need outside nutrition consultants to help them. But if schools go conservative rogue and break free of federal interference, they are more likely to need nutrition and menu consulting from a company like, say, CNource Res, run by Rich Crandall. The "CN" stands for "Child Nutrition," and the company's mission, according to its website, is "to help organizations around the country feed children - whether at home, in day care, at school or after school." Why would they need help if the feds are already giving them all the guidelines they need?

Crandall is doing all this for the sake of the children, the schools and the state, he says. If he makes a little green off of putting fewer green vegetables and fruit on children's plates, what's the harm in that?

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: Dear Tom

I'm sure you have the same issues with mandatory insurance laws, seatbelt laws, etc.

This isn't a "big government" thing. It's making sure children are fed properly and nutritiously. Pee-Vee/HUSD can't run anything, I'd hate to see what they decide to do with school lunches if given that autonomy. Given that most locals seem to think ordering two burgers instead of three at the burger shack = healthy choices, I can only guess...

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

How about we follow the example of our enlightened friends to the west. They are so good at dumping money into such noble programs and obtaining such great results!


Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Thank you Mr. Crandall. Let us know who and which "groups" are requesting mandatory compliance. We can "guess" but it would be good to know.

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: Arizona and Kids

"The loudest opponents to SB1061 claim that only through mandates can people be trusted to do what is in the best interest of children."

And Arizona proves again and again that unless mandated, it does everything it can to slash funding for children's health, well being, and education. Unless you are white, over 55, and vote - you are not a priority in this state. Unless you are a rancher or land developer. Than you are allowed to be younger.

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: Attentive Listener

Mr Crandall- I was right there with you until you put it this way:

Supporters of SB1061 and opponents to the bill basically disagree on one major point - can local communities and constituents be trusted to take care of the children in their charge?

Between simple incompetence and outright corruption, I would not trust my local government to run a lemonade stand, much less to try and feed thousands of kids.

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: Dog Logic

Ketchup is a vegetable. Soda is a fruit. Bring in the vending machines. Anyone else think this another example of feeding the corporate vendors, to profit from fat saturated carbohydrates and empty carbohydrates. Oh no, "I am not anti-fresh fruit, anti-nutritious meals, or anti-low income children."

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