As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

The Fox Still Guards the Hen House

Tonight I came across the article in the Austin American-Statesman, “At taste test, Georgetown students pick healthful menu options.” Before reading it, I became excited–Maybe the school is introducing new fruits and veggies or locally-grown produce into the cafeteria! However, after reading the article I quickly learned that Georgetown schools, like the rest of America, are once again being tricked by large agri-biz and food companies (ConAgra, Tyson, etc.). Reduced-sodium and reduced fat mac and cheese, bacon and pizza is not what we should be eating; we should be eating real food! I find it so upsetting that the article (and, therefore, I presume, the school) emphasizes the “improved” and “healthier” options. Remember when SnackWells cookies came out? Well, that is a prime example of  “healthier” options being presented to the American public. And look where it got us. Real change has got to start with real food. (I define real food as food that has not been processed, is made in the same facility where it is being served and uses lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and some animal products.)
But Joy, you should at least applaud the district’s efforts in looking to provide healthier food to it’s students. Ok, clap. Once.
I realize that changing what schools serve to their students is a huge undertaking for the following reasons:
(1) Many schools lack an actual kitchen where they can prepare real food; instead they are equipped with ovens and microwaves that essentially re-heat heavily processed foods
(2) Kitchen staff may lack trainings as to how to prepare real food.
(3) As mentioned in the article, students can be picky and the school wants to make sure it is serving what students will eat.
(4) Many schools look to food and beverage sales as a way to bolster their meager budget. This is unfortunate because this pits schools (and therefore the health and wellness of students) against multi-national companies looking to profit.
(5) Most schools are reimbursed by federal dollars for the meals they serve. Too bad federal agricultural policy encourages us to consume commodity crops (soy, corn, wheat, etc). Let’s see if we can find some commodity crops in this article….soy bacon (soy–commodity crop); reduced-fat mac and cheese (high fructose corn syrup=corn; wheat = commodity crop; milk = overproduction in this country and government is looking to “dump” extra milk products on everything from school mac and cheese to Dominoes pizza).
I think the sneakiest thing about the situation is that it’s prime example of an industry self-regulating itself. Tyson and ConAgra are “stepping up to the plate” to produce healthier foods, right? Wrong. Read more here at Michele Simon’s blog, Appetite for Profit.  “No need for government regulation when we can regulate ourselves.” Will we ever learn to not let the fox guard the hen house?
So not to be a complete Debby Downer, I’ll offer up what I would rather have read:
(1) “Georgetown schools teach kitchen staff how to make lunches from scratch using twice the amount of fruits and veggies as before”
-OR-
(2) “Georgetown students taste new fruits and veggies being offered in the cafeteria”
-OR-
(3) “Georgetown school district commits to buying 10% of it’s produce from local fruit and vegetable farmers.”
OK, you get the idea, I could go on.
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