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Big brother should stay out of kitchen

The large number of overweight and obese children in North Dakota and the nation's schools represents a serious health problem.

What students eat at school, and the exercise that they get there, can be part of the problem and the solution. it can't be taken lightly.

Rightfully, Michelle Obama has taken up this cause.

What's served students as lunches and snacks during the school day ought to be healthy and nutritionally sound. Local school boards and officials should see an obligation to make that happen.

Federal programs that provide food stuffs to schools for lunch programs also need to be sources of healthy and nutritious ingredients and meals. Nutritional standards and guidelines should be clear.

However, how all of this happens in the local schools should be a local decision.

A child nutrition bill waiting for President Obama's signature would give the federal government the authority to apply nutrition standards not only to the food stuffs it provides for school lunches and snacks, but also to what's contained in school vending machines and fundraisers.

It has been interpreted as a ban on bake sales and pizza fundraisers held during the school day and, technically, that's what it could be used to do.

It doesn't apply to after-school activities and concession stands.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has issued a letter saying he does not intend to ban bake sales. Well, if there's no intention of banning bake sales and pizza, then why is the language in the bill?

It's just this annoying business of the federal government and Congress not knowing when they have gone too far.

There's been push back from the public on the "bake sale ban," but ironically that's not the case with the federal government, through the Federal Communications Commission, ratcheting down the volume on loud TV ads.

The loud ads are annoying to the extreme for many people, so those people want the feds to turn down the volume.

How can we oppose the Department of Agriculture regulating bake sales and support the FCC regulating the volume of TV commercials?

This points to the ongoing difficulty in defining the proper role of the federal government.

It forces lawmakers and other people to rationalize their choices. We don't want Big Brother on the school cafeteria line, but he's welcome to watch TV on the couch in the living room.

The logic for turning down the volume on TV ads is that we, the viewers, do not have a choice as the programming streams into our televisions sets.

For kids in school, the choice between steaming hot slices of pizza and brussels sprouts isn't much of a choice, either.

Where do we make the choices, locally or in Washington? The answer should be "locally."