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2.15.2012

The School Lunch Conundrum

Check out this video.

It was posted by a fellow blogger on facebook this afternoon, and it made me mad on so many levels I had to get it out, so to speak.

But I'm not mad because of the reason you think.  I'm a little irritated that this particular inspector felt the need to confiscate a little girl's lunch, which was generally healthy (better than school lunch, at least).  It was probably humiliating for the child and infuriating for the parent, and is an obvious power struggle.  But I think that is all it is- an isolated case of an inspector on a power trip.  But we have similar inspections at my child's school.  They don't go over every lunch a child brings from home, and they don't confiscate anything or force children to buy a school lunch (that I am aware of), but they do prevent children from having soda with their lunch.

Nor am I mad that, after this effrontery by the inspector, they sent a note home to the mom.  I do not know how this note was worded, but I do think that more education for parents would go a long way towards solving the child obesity crisis, and a not from home for packing potato chips in your child's lunch is called for.

I'm mad about the way the story was handled by Fox News (okay, so maybe you're not so surprised).

Do you want to know the root of why school lunch sucks so much?  Money.  Some parents can't even afford (or don't think they can afford) the incredibly low price of school lunch.  Some can but don't want to.  And even the most affluent would probably resist paying more.  Nobody- but most particularly conservatives- wants to pay more for school lunch, be it privately or by the government.

Money also influences WHAT gets served at lunch.  The government encourage farmers (through policy, etc) to produce surpluses in subsidy crops like wheat, corn, soy, beef, and potatoes.  This drives prices down, and to alleviate the surplus (that they created) the government buys it at rock bottom prices and gives it to schools in exchange for their promise to meet nutritional guidelines.  The problem- the very products they give the schools DO NOT meet their own nutritional guidelines.

And money influences the nutritional guidelines.  Lobbiests from big business are very influential in deciding what can and can not be served in school lunches.

All of it adds up to, well, crap.  Yet when the government decides to spend MORE on school lunches to possibly make them a little better, here is what the conservatives have to say about that:

Yep.  They don't want to spend money to make the school lunch better.  Because parents "should" be able to do that themselves.  Oh wait, parents have zero say on what goes into school lunch.

School lunch is, overall, an atrocity.  And I have no idea what we can do to change that.  I know what we need to change ideologically, and I (like most sane people) can tell you what kind of food kids SHOULD eat.  But nobody seems to be able to figure out how we can make that a reality for all kids in public school, mostly because no one wants to pay for it.

But you know what?  Wait ten, twenty years.  Someone will pay for it.  Unfortunately it will probably be our children.

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