A free and open market will settle on the demand for goods or services. As the government adds requirements to that market, the price will change and adjust to accommodate the new cost of that good or service. For example, if you wanna house, one can be built for you at such and such a cost. However, when the requirement, however reasonable, that the house have plumbing is added, the cost of that house is going to go up.
I’m not claiming that we allow houses to be built without plumbing. I’m simply stating that when we DO make that requirement, we price homes above what some segment of the population can afford.
This is true of all things. And school lunch is no exception:
It’s lunchtime at Van Nuys High School and students stream into the cafeteria to check out the day’s fare: black bean burgers, tostada salad, fresh pears and other items on a new healthful menu introduced this year by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
But Iraides Renteria and Mayra Gutierrez don’t even bother to line up. Iraides said the school food previously made her throw up, and Mayra calls it “nasty, rotty stuff.”
And why is the school cafeteria serving lunch that students don’t wanna eat?
Earlier this year, the district got rid of chocolate and strawberry milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, nachos and other food high in fat, sugar and sodium. Instead, district chefs concocted such healthful alternatives as vegetarian curries and tamales, quinoa salads and pad Thai noodles.
The district, government, tried to regulate the market. No longer could schools sell food that kids wanted to eat, rather, the school was forced to sell food that the regulators decided was fit for the kids. Now, do I think that fresh pears and pad Thai is better for you than corn dogs and nachos? Hell yeah! In fact, I’ve eaten many many more portions of pears and pad Thai than corn dogs and nachos in the last, what, 20 years. I fact, I can’t remember the last time I had a corn dog.
Point is, independent of the fact that mandating healthy food is good or not, when the regulation is applied, the market shifts. It adjusts.
Many of the meals are being rejected en masse. Participation in the school lunch program has dropped by thousands of students. Principals report massive waste, with unopened milk cartons and uneaten entrees being thrown away. Students are ditching lunch, and some say they’re suffering from headaches, stomach pains and even anemia.
Waste. And unhealthy behavior.
But do you know what ELSE happened?
At many campuses, an underground market for chips, candy, fast-food burgers and other taboo fare is thriving.
The market adjusted and is now providing the very thing the regulations were meant to diminish.
The market will win.