The Great Peanut Butter Conspiracy

Monday, November 5, 2012

You want to know what's wrong with the United States government? I'll tell you.

It's peanut butter.

In a nutshell, if you will pardon the pun.

You read that right. The problem is peanut butter - or at least peanut butter will serve metaphorically to represent the larger issue, a government so big and vast and political that it ends up working to spite itself.

Listen to this.

The Storm Lake schools get sent peanut butter every month - 11 big cases of it - through a government program.

The same government that has created new regulations for school meals limiting the calories that children can be fed - a formula that in effects outlaws the peanut butter sandwich in schools.

So, those cases of peanut butter keep on coming from the government, and piling up in storage because if the cooks use any of it, they break government regulation and the government threatens to take away the government funding that makes it possible to provide a government-mandated school lunch program.

Just in case that doesn't sound quite stupid enough, the government bans the schools from donating food it can't use.

Making sense so far? No? Good, because if this made any sense to you, you should see a psychiatrist immediately.

We have case upon case of perfectly good peanut butter piling up and filling the school storage space, while a couple of blocks away we have the Upper Des Moines Food Pantry, where readers of this newspaper have recently learned that the demand from a needy area population is stripping the shelves bare as fast as food can be collected.

Your government is paying for food that it won't let anybody eat, while we have people going hungry.

Oh, for crying out loud.

It makes you just want to beat your head against a wall, doesn't it?

A government so tied up in regulation and infighting that it can't solve something as simple as a peanut butter dilemma. Are we supposed to believe these people can handle the economy, immigration and Social Security?

My proposal to a principal in the district - throw all that peanut butter away. Pile those cartons right next to the dumpster, by sheer coincidence at a particular time each month. There, they've done their duty and followed the government regulation to a "t" and cannot be held responsible.

From there, in a purely hypothetical sense, mind you, if some rogue newspaper editor were to pilfer the discarded peanut butter, and it happened to show up on the doorstep of, say, the local food pantry... well, just thinking out loud. Where did I put that black hoodie?

I believe in following laws and policies, but if ever there was an addle-headed government policy that deserved to be rebelled against, it is this.

We have food. We have hungry people. Is it really, really that hard to figure it out?

For our leaders, it sure seems to be. I'm guessing most of them have never known what it felt like to be a child who may not get any nutritious meals at home. Or to be an underemployed parent or a recipient of stagnant Social Security checks who run out of food to put on the table before they run out of month.

The visit from Steve King to our elementary school lunchroom this week shed some additional light on the school lunch policy changes being enforced by our government.

Under it, our students may have to get through a long school day on as little as 550 calories for the younger kids, and a max of 850 for the largest high school athlete. Something like an ounce and a half of meat dish is allowed - that translates two a hunk of lasagna two inches square.

The old standby of the soft-hearted school cook, the peanut butter sandwich, that always seemed to find its way into the hand of a child who forgot their lunch money or who was hungry late in the day - outlawed. As we mentioned earlier, peanut butter is evil.

The government dictates that schools serve certain amounts of certain colors of foods - a goofy approach to a good idea of nutritional balance. But under the plan, kids have to get a heaping helping of stuff like beets and kale. Guess where all that goes? That's right, in the trash. There's a whole lot of the government's lunch scheme going out the door in garbage bags. Again, any vegetables or other foods the schools use are required to be put on a student's plate whether the kid wants it or not. You can lead a kid to spinach, but you can't make him eat it. Like the peanut butter, whatever the school can't use can no longer be donated to charity where it is so badly needed. It has to be thrown away.

As for the food pantries, they exist almost despite government. Thank goodness for the local school students, scouts and other groups that collect canned goods to help out, the farmers and hunters who donate meat and eggs, the groceries that make sure any overflow of bread and vegetables go that direction. I'm thankful the government hasn't gotten around to meddling in that process yet.

We have to be hopeful here, that good sense will prevail at the USDA, in Congress and whatever other agencies have their hands in all this.

Last time I checked, a medium-size jar of peanut butter (a fine source of protein, by the way), was selling for close to $4 a jar. One jar of peanut butter could make 32 sandwiches for hungry schoolkids or needy families.

Imagine what 11 cases of peanut butter is worth. It's like goopy gold - a little edible Fort Knox in a storage closet just going to waste. (See photo).

Perhaps the best thing to do with the overflow of peanut butter is to stuff a big wad of it in the mouths of

bureaucrats. If you've ever seen a dog trying to eat peanut butter, you know that it keeps that dog from barking for a good long slurpy time.

Maybe the quiet will allow more practical minds to take over, and at least stop the massive waste of food that could be put to good use.