Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller (TP-Stephenville) likes to take on the important issues facing our state – like making sure Texas students have better access to deep fat fried foods and sodas. As if our young ones did not have enough opportunity to consume heavily fried treats and high fructose sugar drinks at McDonalds, Whataburger, KFC and elsewhere, Miller is committed to allowing Texas schools to once again help students become even bigger lard-asses. Miller claims that this is not about fried food but freedom. Curiously, Miller had also been busy trying to secure more money for the chronically underfunded Texas Department of Agriculture. Funny how once he was in charge, the former legislator (and alleged fiscal conservative) found that his department couldn’t do its job. But in his latest buffoonish move, Miller’s true colors show through. The Texas Tribune reports:
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, the cowboy-hat-wearing champion of local control, is looking to buck a decade-old statewide ban on deep fat fryers in public schools. Putting decision-making back into the hands of Texas school districts, he says, “isn’t about french fries, it’s about freedom.”
Within the next couple of months, the Texas Department of Agriculture could be poised to repeal a state policy that bans deep fat fryers and soda machines on school campuses and places limits on the time and place that junk food can be sold there. In addition, Miller is proposing an increase in the number of allowed fundraiser days – when cupcakes and other sugary, fatty foods can be sold during the school day – from one to six per school year.
The deep fat fryer and soda machine ban are the last of strict nutritional policies introduced by former Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs. In 2004, in addition to those bans, Combs introduced the more comprehensive Texas Public School Nutrition Policy, which banned foods with high levels of sugar and fats in public schools. The policy was repealed last year, when Todd Staples was commissioner, and Miller has consistently expressed his support for less regulation of food in schools.
In January, Miller granted amnesty to cupcakes during his first act as commissioner in an attempt to reassure Texas parents that cupcakes and other treats would be allowed in schools under his administration, which he promised would increase local control of decision-making processes and protect the rights of parents.
“This is coming from when he was on the campaign trail,” said Bryan Black, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Agriculture, referring to the proposed changes. “He heard it repeatedly, when it came to cupcakes and other things. People were asking why local communities shouldn’t have a say.”
But for many parents and nutritionists, that reasoning doesn’t square with reality. In 2013, 16 percent of high school students in Texas were obese, up from 14 percent in 2005. Only Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama reported higher rates. Nationwide, child obesity rates have jumped from 7 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2012. Among minorities, the rates for children and adolescents were significantly higher, with Hispanics at 22 percent and non-Hispanic black youth at 20 percent.