Friday, February 20, 2009

Current school lunch system should be eliminated, famous chef and local-food advocate say

The National School Lunch Program has gotten a lot of heat over the past decade due to increasing rates of child obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Alice Waters and Katrina Heron contribute an op-ed piece to The New York Times, urging for reform of the system, partly in ways that could help rural areas.

Waters and Heron write that the Department of Agriculture spends around $9 billion annually for the prorgam, "a figure widely acknowledged as inadequate to cover food costs." In addition to this, schools can receive "commodity foods" that are cheaper and include obesity culprits like processed chicken nuggets and pizza. Because of the little preparation these foods require, they are an asset to schools without kitchens or an adequate cooking staff, but the impact on child health is mounting with this national program of "junk-food distribution."

Waters and Heron encourage a reformat of the entire system with the aid of several government departments and key figures. "Washington needs to give schools enough money to cook and serve unprocessed foods that are produced without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. When possible, these foods should be locally grown," they write. "Cash-strapped parents should be able to rely on the government to contribute to their children’s physical well-being, not to the continued spread of youth obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other diet-related problems." Read more here.

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