It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
In her new book, "Free for All: Fixing School Food in America," Janet Poppendieck explains the politics behind cafeteria food. They're about as ugly as the food itself.
School lunch programs have always been less about compassion for needy children and more about accommodating political and commercial interests.
Why, for instance, have we developed three different ways to pay the lunch lady -- one for the poor students, one for the nearly poor, and one for those who supposedly drive BMWs to school? The logical answer might be because that’s fair; the rich kids should pay more and the government should subsidize the cost of feeding lower income children, as it currently does to the tune of $11 billion annually.
But as Poppendieck peels back the layers of the onion, we find the issue has always been less about compassion for needy children and more about accommodating political and commercial interests.
Harry Truman (school lunch is good for national security), Ronald Reagan (ketchup is a vegetable), nutritionists (it's nutrients that count, not the quality and taste of food), and various agricultural lobbies wanting to unload their farm surpluses are just a sampling of the agendas that have driven the school food agenda. Somewhere low on the totem pole, you’ll find concern for the health and well-being of boys and girls.
Poppendieck’s jargon-free narrative takes us step-by-step through the deals, concessions, and compromises that have bureaucratized the school food process while simultaneously dumbing down the food.
Why is so much processed food used to prepare school meals? Because taxpayers are spending billions to subsidize corn and soybeans, the prime ingredients in processed food, and because “cooking from scratch” kitchens have been removed from the schools. Why do we worry about price when talking about feeding our children?
Because the federal government (or anyone else for that matter) will not provide enough funding to enable schools to buy fresh, whole ingredients. Why do we have so many junk food items sold “a la carte” in our schools? Well, using a French culinary phrase to disguise what is otherwise crappy food, schools must sell these items to students with discretionary cash -- supposedly the ones driving the BMWs -- to compensate for the low reimbursements they receive for meals that meet mandated USDA health standards. And on it goes.