Saturday, July 18, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This guy wants to give Texas schools the "freedom and liberty" to ignore nutrition science and obesity

"This guy" is the Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, a Tea Party Conservative and staunch advocate of "freedom" and "liberty."  He wants Texas schools to be able to choose whether or not they want to allow deep fat fryers back into schools.  And he wants restrictions on sodas removed.  And he wants to double the number of days that schools are allowed to sell junk food for school fundraisers.  

He believes that it is a local jurisdiction's prerogative to decide what is healthy or not.  Because of course the functioning of the human body varies from locality to locality, right?  Why should we listen to nutrition science, when all we really need to know about health can be found in the treatises of Hayek and the party platforms of the Tea Party?  Of course, most schools don't give students the "freedom" and "liberty" to not go to school, nor is there generally other options for food, but really, why should we be concerned about making all the kids of Texas a captive audience for Mr. Miller's fried fare?

Perhaps the one consolation one can take is that this is really more political stunt than serious policy proposal.  Because of the federal regulations on school food, there's little chance that such proposals would produce reimbursable meals.  Most sensible adult Americans don't think that fried food and sodas are good for kids, even though they eat such things themselves (as do I).  But school food is different; it's a teaching tool, too.  And, on the financial side, even the Tea Party wouldn't want to do without the many millions of dollars that subsidize actually healthy school meals.  But it got Mr. Miller in the news.  And here I am to helping to spread the word about how principled he's trying to be.  You're welcome, Sid.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

More context on the "school lunches around the world" phenomenon

Both The Lunch Tray and Mother Jones (who quotes extensively from Siegel's blog on The Lunch Tray), give a compelling argument for why we need to be cautious about taking at face value the stories and web galleries that purport to show how fantastic other countries' school lunches are compared to those in the US.  I've been guilty of spreading these images, too, but as I have said, I don't really get the fascination.  Perhaps there's some notion that other countries haven't succumbed to processed food, that elsewhere they are holding onto their slow-produced, scratch-cooked meals featuring all sorts of real, organic food.  The two stories I referred to in the first sentence above remind us that this wishful thinking just isn't true.

In my travels looking at school food in Anglophone countries--England, Australia, and South Africa, there's certainly a lot of interest in getting kids better food.  But in all those places they struggle with the same Western diet we do.  Pizza in English cafeterias, even after all of Jamie Oliver's struggles.  Candy in Australian canteens and loads of hungry kids who get no subsidized lunch.  Variations of corn mush in township schools in South Africa.  In the private schools there they eat better, but still lots of access to junk.  That said, I've seen better versions of school food, too.

It's a good reminder that school food is complicated and suffers through local, national, and even transnational politics before it takes the form it does on the plate.  Picture galleries aside, the US has much to be proud of, and it has much to learn, as well.