I’m thrilled the U.S. government passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. But critics say the $4.5 billion plan is too expensive.

After those gluttonous holidays, the dinner plates at my home were filled with all things green.

There was fresh spinach, roasted brussels sprouts, steamed green beans and sautéed broccoli.
After a month of restaurants, last-minute dinners and party food, I think even the kids were happy for the change.

There’s a reason why everyone just wants a carrot come Jan. 1: Our bodies weren’t made to sustain on junk food for very long. When we get the nutrients we need, we function better: More sleep, more energy, increased concentration.

That’s why I’m thrilled the U.S. government passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Aimed at feeding more children and making school food more nutritious, the act is a step toward reducing U.S. childhood obesity and teaching kids the value of a well-balanced diet.

Critics say the $4.5 billion plan is too expensive. Poorly funded? Possibly. Fiscally mismanaged?
Could be. But too expensive? I don’t think so.

There are many ways the U.S. government manages to waste money. This isn’t one of them.
Giving a child math smarts or the gift of literacy only takes them part of the way; they need physical health to give them longevity.

We must not cut corners on the health of our next generation. We can’t consistently choose the cheapest option and expect it to get the job done.

In November, Sarah Palin spoke out against the effort to bring healthier foods into the schools. Her reason? The government shouldn’t be making those calls. It’s not the government’s job to decide that a child can’t have a cookie. She even brought dozens of cookies to a school event and handed them out to students.

“Who should make the decisions what you eat?” she said in a speech. “Should it be the government or should it be the parents? It should be the parents!”

That reasoning is flawed at best and silly at worst. Public schools are government-run, so the government already is making those calls. It’s just that now they’re making a wiser call.

In my house, we have an “eat or go to bed hungry” rule. I’m not a short-order cook and, aside from my daughter’s food allergies, I don’t take any single person into consideration when I’m making a family meal. They don’t get to vote for the food that shows up on their plate. Why? Because I’m the person buying the food and cooking it. Thus, I’m in charge.

While I realize the school lunch program is taxpayer-funded, the same concept applies. This isn’t a matter of more regulations on small businesses. This is a shift in the types of foods being
provided by the schools to children — from fattening, potentially deadly foods to more nutrient-rich options.

We’re not afraid to teach geometry. We don’t hesitate to give history lessons. We consider it the school’s job to shape the mind and intellect of America’s children.

It’s time for government-run schools to do a better job of nourishing those little bodies, as well.
And I, for one, am thankful to see it.

Elizabeth Davies’ column runs Sundays in Life&Style. She can be reached at edavies@rrstar.com.