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September 9, 2012 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) thinks that new school lunch standards derived from the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act equal rationing. His constituents' kids are "starving," says the congressman. But the HHFKA actually expanded access to school breakfast and lunch programs and improved school nutritional guidelines. Is this a nanny state, or a culture war?

Sarah Palin deliberately brought cookies to a PA school in defiance of its healthy snack guidelines. The School Lunch Project and many articles have highlighted what's actually being served in schools today.

(Formerly on the blue: school lunches one, two, three)

But is this a political fight or a cultural one? Karen LeBillon posts French school lunch menus that will make you weep. And some parents call for a return to the square, white-flour pizza slices we all remember so their kids won't complain. What does fighting improvements in school lunches say about the US relationship with food and food culture?
posted by bitter-girl.com (74 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
The kids had better eat as healthy as possible to give the best possible return on the taxpayers' healthcare mandate dollar.

Let 'em eat tofu.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


If it's Rep. Steve Kind, it's a culture war.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:17 AM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


What kind of Commie wants a School Lunch Program?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:17 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Easy answer: if It's coming out ofSteve King's mouth it's horseshit.
posted by ghharr at 11:19 AM on September 9, 2012 [33 favorites]


Am I missing the primary link to this FPP? Where is the link to "Rep. Steve King (R-IA) thinks..."?

Not having read TFA, I will say that my school district is about to lose its ability to set its own schedule ... because it closes schools so rarely for snow days ... because so many kids in the district don't eat at all if they don't eat at school. So if Sarah Palin wants to come and give the hungry kids in my district cookies instead of actual food, then fuck her. And if this guy wants to repeal a law that gives hungry kids actual food instead of junk, then fuck him.
posted by headnsouth at 11:22 AM on September 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Updated nutrition standards for school meals based on expert recommendations from the Institute of Medicine."

Hmmm. The Institute of Medicine.

"Established in 1970, the IOM is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which was chartered under President Abraham Lincoln in 1863."

It should be a little embarrassing for the Republicans that all nannystate-ism leads back to the tyrant Lincoln. 1970 means Nixon had a hand in this too.....

Sarah Palin deliberately brought cookies to a PA school

A real patriot would have handed out booze and cigarettes and ammo.
posted by three blind mice at 11:26 AM on September 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


Thanks for this post -- this is a really tricky issue.

I teach in an urban middle school and although the vast majority of the kids get free lunches they often opt for the vending machine (which many of them can only kind of afford) instead of eating their healthy, not too terrible school lunch. The question of whether it's better to feed students healthy food they might not eat or be complicit in giving them more junk but at least ensuring that they get some food is a tricky one. Most of the snacks in the vending machine are healthy but there are Rice Krisipies Treats and what's what a lot of our students end up eating for lunch. The problem is, if we got rid of that many students would end up not eating lunch at all. It's easy to say "they'll eat if they get hungry enough" but many elementary and middle schoolers are not good at making choices and in fact will NOT eat even if they are hungry if they decide they don't like the lunch.

Last year I taught at an elementary school which served breakfast in the classroom, one of the "innovative approaches" described in the flyer. I applaud the desire to make sure kids eat but it was frankly gross having that food in the classroom and it was a huge distraction. We had fifteen minutes to get up from the auditorium, pass out lunches, eat, and clean up (including dumping out the extra milk) before the school day officially began and it just wasn't enough time for seven and eight year olds (or me), then it raised the question of what do you do if a kid is late? You don't want to deny a kid food but if breakfast ends at 9:00 and someone shows up at 9:02 there's a mass freakout if you let them eat. Plus, the school had a major attendance/punctuality problem so you're taking away an incentive to arrive on time. That said, the kids are seven; it's not entirely their fault if they're late so why are they the ones being punished?

Breakfast in the classroom also meant that the kids became comfortable with the idea of eating in the classroom so I was put in the position of confiscating the food they brought on their own. I had kids whose families would give them bags of chips and cookies to eat for breakfast; the kids given McDonald's and PopTarts were actually better off than many of the alternatives. In addition, because many of these kids had very limited access to luxuries or things they wanted, taking away their breakfast Funyuns (not a joke!) was a huge burden and an occasionally serious discipline problem. There was food for every kid and it was decent food (not great but fine) but getting them to eat it was really, really hard.

Unfortunately there aren't easy answers to any of this; part of the problem is that both my students and their parents last year thought that Doritos or whatever were perfectly cromulent breakfast options so that became normalized for them. If the students won't eat healthy food, what do you do?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:27 AM on September 9, 2012 [72 favorites]



A real patriot would have handed out booze and cigarettes and ammo.


She'd have been a hit at my high school.
posted by tyllwin at 11:29 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mailed the mods but in the meantime, here's the main link that got borked -- sorry everyone!

LINK!

(And Mrs. Pterodactyl, "If the students won't eat healthy food, what do you do?" is an interesting question addressed by the book Karen LeBillon of French school lunch menu fame wrote about her kids' experience in the French school system in some detail...)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:36 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not sure if it is a culture war, but part of the Us Vs Them dialectic that is contemporary American politics. Steve King or Sarah Palin could care less about nutrition or freedom or dead babies stuffed into the weeping statue of liberty. If it something the opposition wants then it is something to criticize no matter how empty and meaningless that criticism.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:40 AM on September 9, 2012 [37 favorites]


Yeah, munchingzombie has it. This is rationing? Really now? They're just trying to say anything they can that will get play on the news, to then further their stupid agenda, because a lot of people still believe, hey, if the news mentions it there must be something to it.
posted by JHarris at 11:46 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


addressed by the book Karen LeBillon of French school lunch menu fame wrote about her kids' experience in the French school system

That looks really interesting, but based on that description it also seems like a potentially privileged perspective; without being able to read the book right now, how does it work for families who don't have the money or access to provide their kids with quality food or even a variety of foods?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:48 AM on September 9, 2012


This is the same Steve King who says that defends dogfighting and who recently said that he has never heard of a girl getting pregnant from incest. Any conversation about him needs to start with those two talking points so we understand what kind of person we're dealing with.

With regard to school lunches, Jamie Oliver has made this his pet cause and has done a lot in the UK to bring this issue to the forefront. He dealt with the same kind of Sarah-Palin-freedom-to-eat-cookies resistance there, with mothers buying burgers and fries for their kids and passing them through the fence to them at lunchtime.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:48 AM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I eat school lunch for dinner every other week, at school board meetings. It's not awful, although I don't know how I'd feel about my kid eating it every single day. The grains are all whole wheat now (though often "white wheat" which I hate). There is fruit with every meal, although it's often apple-orange-banana-pear. There are both raw and cooked vegetables with every meal. The raw veggie is usually a salad, which is actually pretty good (and they've moved away from iceberg lettuce with the latest revision of standards to greener greens; also usually includes cukes, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, etc.). The cooked veggie is, again, the normal sorts of things -- carrots, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes. The entrees vary, are cooked on-site, and are usually pretty good. There are at least three entree options at our smaller kitchens (meat, vegetarian, and cold lunch like a sandwich) and five or six at our bigger buildings with larger kitchens. There's usually a semi-healthy dessert in small portions. It's an adequate number of calories for adults, and it's reasonably tasty. Every now and then it's delicious (oh, God, the spinach-feta wraps! So good!) but mostly it's just reasonably tasty and reasonably healthy. Certainly healthier and more diverse when I was in school.

Where we've had problems is with the school breakfasts for elementary school students. Both the distribution, as Mrs. Pterodactyl talks about (and bolting your food in 15 minutes can only lead to stomach aches!), and with some kids not getting enough calories from them. I forget what the calorie goal is, but it assumes the same amount for students K through 4, for boys and girls, for active and sedentary kids. It's a fairly small breakfast, which for some kids is fine but for other kids who eat a small breakfast and a light lunch is backwards. We do have children, especially very active boys, especially in 3rd and 4th grade, who do not get enough calories from school breakfast, and it's a problem.

Unlike school lunch, where kids go through a lunch line and have some choices about how much food, school breakfast is served in the classroom, cold, and "rationed" into specific portions. It's not made in the production kitchens but is just cold, prepared food.

As someone else says above, we have a lot of students who, if they don't eat at school, just don't eat. A lot of them don't have working appliances at home, so even if someone wanted to cook for them, and had ingredients to cook for them, they have no way to cook. But a lot of our students have never really eaten not-packaged food except for school lunch.

Our food service provider also provides curriculum on food, nutrition, and health, and organizes a program in the local community to bring local chefs and gardeners and farmers into the schools, which the kids love. (We also have a mandatory home ec curriculum in the junior highs, partly because so many of our kids have literally no "food culture" at home and don't know how to procure or prepare food.) They also provide "ethnic" food options that vary based on the make-up of local schools -- we get Mexican, Carribbean, and Indian food, and those entrees are surprisingly delicious.

On the whole I think our provider does a pretty good job, and there's a lot more thought that goes into the program than there used to be, both about the health of the food and about integrating healthy eating into students' lives more holistically. Still, it's very cafeteria-y food, it can't tackle the food culture problems our students face, we make them eat too fast because lunch time is "wasted" time, and it's very corporatized -- most school lunch programs are run by Sodexo, Compass, or Aramark. And it isn't tailored to the needs of each individual student, which I don't really know how you'd do that, but we do have students who dramatically outlie the given guidelines and aren't well-served by the very standardized program.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:48 AM on September 9, 2012 [31 favorites]


Ah, Steve King? This guy from the DNC's Romney/King commercial? Cultural? Not so much as just assbackwards.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the same Steve King who says that defends dogfighting and who recently said that he has never heard of a girl getting pregnant from incest. Any conversation about him needs to start with those two talking points so we understand what kind of person we're dealing with.

Don't forget point 3: that whole thing where he claimed it's legal for a someone to rape a young girl, kidnap her and drive her across state lines for a forced abortion.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Mrs. Pterodactyl, from LeBillon's blog:
Note: unlike the United States, there is no national school lunch program in France. All of the lunches you’ll read about here are funded by local municipalities. Three-course (or even four-course) freshly-prepared hot lunches are provided to over 6 million French children in the public school system every day. Even without national subsidies, these meals cost, on average, $3 per child (and prices for low-income families are subsidized), not significantly higher than the lunches provided through the National School Lunch Program in the US.
In the book it's made clear that all the kids are expected to eat at school (no brown-bagging it) because it's also considered a cultural education. In the same way we made, say, the Presidential fitness blah blah blah an expectation in our school PE systems, except they're looking at it from a slightly broader perspective if you ask me.

And not to threadsit, but yes, triggerfinger, obviously King's an idiot. What surprised me when I first started reading about this, though, and discussing it elsewhere was how many parents are on his side! (Which is why I framed it as a cultural issue as well)

You get the "government can't tell me what to feed my kids" thing, sure, but one piece anecdata that really surprised me: a school in Austin got a million dollars to hire a chef to cook (free! for all kids! if parents want to eat, too, it's $5) breakfast and lunch every day and the parents are complaining there's no pizza... ??? What to do?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:55 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


BTW, whether breakfast and lunch are hot/cold/prepared on site/number of options/etc., is up to a local school district. Generally in my district our high schools and some of our junior highs have "production kitchens" where they make the food, and our elementary schools have only "service kitchens" for serving it; it is trucked from the high schools to the elementary schools. We do cold breakfast because we don't have the facilities for hot breakfast. Those aren't universal things, though.

Also: "It's a fairly small breakfast, which for some kids is fine but for other kids who eat a small breakfast and a light lunch is backwards" -- meant to be "who eat a LARGE breakfast and a light lunch."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:57 AM on September 9, 2012


Y'know, sometimes the stupid flies by so fast you almost don't realize how stupid it is.

King is complaining about the nanny state. When taking about how we treat children.

Still too fast?

The nanny state refers to the government treating adults as if they were still children. Children, still being children, still need adult guidance and we don't give them complete freedom of choice.

What a complete idiot.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:59 AM on September 9, 2012 [17 favorites]


I don't really understand these types of programs. Are the programs motivated by starving children? Or is it motivated by obese children that need to not eat Funyuns for breakfast? (the breakfasts our school district offers aren't too far from the Funyun wagon). I feel like there's this all this attention to children in our nation that are starving (And I agree that if this is the case then providing HEALTHY meals is a good one, no child should be hungry). But then I hear about how obese children of our nation are and I'm honestly confused. Or is it both?
posted by Sassyfras at 11:59 AM on September 9, 2012


reading this reminded me of my favorite Onion article: Point/Counterpoint: I am so starving
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:59 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't forget point 3: that whole thing where he claimed it's legal for a someone to rape a young girl, kidnap her and drive her across state lines for a forced abortion.

I remember hearing about that, but didn't realize that it was also Our Man Steve who said it. What a charmer.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:01 PM on September 9, 2012


You can't, I think, change it in a vacuum, saying: well, kids have to be served this specific healthy meal, but also eat it in 10 or 15 minutes and whenever they happen to have lunch period, even if that's at 10 am. The new guidelines are absolutely guaranteed to fail, because they are put in place without any real support.

I also suspect that the French system is less magical and wonderful than it appears to be: there are suggestions that it doesn't work for kids with allergies or who are vegetarian or who -- horrors! -- want to eat Halal meat. I'm sure there are issues in urban centres, and in poorer areas, that rich American expats don't write books about.
posted by jeather at 12:01 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


What do people expect, really? How big do we think the budget is for this, when my kid has to choose between taking art class or orchestra? And it is a monumental effort to feed this many people, twice a day. Try telling idiots like this guy that we need more funds to really make any meaningful difference.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:04 PM on September 9, 2012


I will say that my school district is about to lose its ability to set its own schedule because it closes schools so rarely for snow days

Color me unsurprised that Alabama's legislature did not originate the idea when it passed and overrode a veto of a law favoring the interests of the tourism industry over the prerogative of local school boards to set their own policy regarding schedules.

The Rep. King thing is culture war nonsense being spouted by a nonsensical culture warrior to a crowd of 20 true believers. I would suspect that Rep. King ultimately doesn't believe the Dep't of Education/Federal education standards/Free & Reduced Lunch/etc should exist and this is merely a dogwhistle representing the new wingnut version of opposition.
posted by ndfine at 12:05 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel like there's this all this attention to children in our nation that are starving (And I agree that if this is the case then providing HEALTHY meals is a good one, no child should be hungry). But then I hear about how obese children of our nation are and I'm honestly confused. Or is it both?

It can definitely be both. If you have a kid who, for example, ONLY eats Funyuns, s/he might be obese and still be undernourished. There are children who do not receive adequate nutrients for development but also receive too many calories.

Part of this too can be the fact that bad food is often cheaper and is CERTAINLY more accessible; as I drive to school there are any number of fast food places and very few decent supermarkets on the way. If you need to make sure your children are eating, you give them what you can get and what you can afford.

It can also vary based on stuff like where in the month we are. There are plenty of kids who eat McDonald's all the time right after their family's check comes and then it tapers off to basically nothing as the month wears on. They might still be obese but that doesn't mean they're getting enough food all the time.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:05 PM on September 9, 2012 [18 favorites]


I'm really going to try to slow down my posting (sorry! I have a lot of opinions here) but I wanted to respond to this:

but also eat it in 10 or 15 minutes and whenever they happen to have lunch period, even if that's at 10 am.

Technically they are legally required to have 30 minutes to eat lunch but that doesn't always happen. Also, there's not necessarily anything to do afterwards so if it only takes them ten minutes to eat that's twenty minutes to run around and fight and scream and have SERIOUS behavior issues (don't ask me about lunch duty last year).

The time thing is also a good point; on half-days, for example, when the kids are dismissed at noon, we need to push up lunch so they end up eating breakfast until nine and then the younger grades have lunch at like ten thirty and may not eat again until the next school day. I don't know if there's a good solution but it's definitely a problem.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:10 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Are the programs motivated by starving children? Or is it motivated by obese children that need to not eat Funyuns for breakfast?"

In the United States (as in other Western nations), children are often both malnourished AND overweight. They don't get adequate HEALTHY food. While they may get enough calories, they often get very low-quality calories, and at irregular intervals that leave them hungry (and unable to learn) at school. They make lack specific nutrients to the point where they have old-timey nutritional diseases like rickets or scurvy.

The program is available to students who meet poverty guidelines (up to 185% of the poverty line, I think; these children are highly-likely to be "food-insecure"), or, in a pilot program, to all students in schools with a certain percentage of impoverished students, as it turns out to be cheaper to just give all the students free lunches (and breakfasts) than to administer a program where 10% of students are excluded. So it's aimed at impoverished students. It was originally established under Truman with the twin goals of soaking up farm surplus and helping keep agricultural prices steady, and ensuring hungry children had access to adequate calories. In the last 20 years there's been a shift away from "enough calories" thinking to "healthy food," as the problems of inadequate nutrition in the West have shifted from "not enough food" to "wrong sorts of food."

"What do people expect, really? How big do we think the budget is for this, when my kid has to choose between taking art class or orchestra?"

It's a totally separate funding source, and the funds don't cross into each other. Funding for school lunches is completely and entirely separate from funding for teacher salaries or school supplies. The funds aren't "fungible."

The budget for this is approximately $10 billion/year nationwide.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:11 PM on September 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, interesting that a die-hard conservative would give a shit about school lunches. Rich parents should be able to afford to pack bag lunches easily, so why is Steve King suddenly worried about poor kids access to junk food?

Oh right, because modern "conservatism" is really all about whatever resentment to change you can stir up.
posted by delmoi at 12:15 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I only see these issues from the sidelines in my work, but one thing I think the kind of people who needlessly politicize primary school education and nutrition seem to forget is we're talking about little kids here. Using them as pawns in some kind of political war is just plain wrong. This is the United States of America. I don't want to hear about how the richest country in the history of Earth can't afford 0.7% of its budget to make sure its children don't go hungry or can't figure out how to provide them with adequate nutrition that they'll actually eat.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:21 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


the real takeaway from this debate is that we, as a nation, have failed in our capacity to provide nutrition for our children. Millions of Americans send their children to school with chips and cookies for breakfast.

We have failed.
posted by Avenger at 12:39 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, interesting that a die-hard conservative would give a shit about school lunches… Oh right, because modern "conservatism" is really all about whatever resentment to change you can stir up.

In this case I assume it has more to do with the $45,000 he's taken from the meat industry, as noted in the article.
posted by grouse at 12:42 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stephen King wishes he could be as disturbing as Steve King
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:59 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


40% of obese children from low-income families were found to have too low a daily calorie intake in this study, and there was a similar study in Nova Scotia in 2005.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:07 PM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is the same Steve King who says that defends dogfighting and who recently said that he has never heard of a girl getting pregnant from incest. Any conversation about him needs to start with those two talking points so we understand what kind of person we're dealing with.

You missed one: King was the only one of 535 members of Congress in 2009 to vote against a plaque recognizing slaves who helped build the Capitol.

Truly, Iowa must be proud.
posted by jaduncan at 1:10 PM on September 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


I only see these issues from the sidelines in my work, but one thing I think the kind of people who needlessly politicize primary school education and nutrition seem to forget is we're talking about little kids here.

Oh, but education, especially the education of young children, is a very political act, and a hugely contentious mass of fighting but various ideological groups for dominance. When you are basically taking everyone's kids and teaching them what it means to be a citizen and a person, this is one of the most outright-political things you can do. How do you eat? How do you read? Who should you listen to? How should you listen? These are the very foundations of how people think and feel about themselves, and they can impact how an individual will think and act for a lifetime.
posted by oflinkey at 1:24 PM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


*fighting by various ideological groups
posted by oflinkey at 1:26 PM on September 9, 2012


This is just another example of the US placing the burden of not having a social safety net on its school system. The next time you hear someone complaining about how Finland achieves better educations results with less money than we do, remember that those Finnish kids can get three meals a day from home or government support that does not fall on the local school's budget.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:26 PM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


As oflinkey says, food can be a hugely political (with a small p; not necessarily party political) issue!

I remember when Jamie Oliver campaigned to improve school dinners in the UK a year or two ago; the press was full of stories of parents passing chip butties through the school gates to their children who "wouldn't eat".

My children eat the menu you'll find on this pdf. You'd think all those high-calorie puddings would make them fat, but reality disagrees. This costs £2 / day per child.
posted by pharm at 1:38 PM on September 9, 2012


Culture War? Nanny State?

Its someone who is hostile to the people of the US, actively screwing them over in favor of his own class.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:40 PM on September 9, 2012


In Iowa, we lost a congressional district and the redrawn lines make King's district slightly competitive. This election is probably the last/best chance to lose this guy. Christie Vilsack is running against him. She would be the first woman to represent Iowa in either DC or the governor's mansion (The lack of a woman in either position is a distinction we share only with Mississippi if memory serves). If you have a few bucks but no local political villain to use them against, you could do worse than sending them to Vilsack.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 1:45 PM on September 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


I remember when Jamie Oliver campaigned to improve school dinners in the UK a year or two ago; the press was full of stories of parents passing chip butties through the school gates to their children who "wouldn't eat".

Yeah. It does have to be said that Tories weren't appearing on TV saying it was actually going to lead/had led to children starving.
posted by jaduncan at 1:54 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aizkolari has it; if we have malnourished kids, then giving them a school meal is a stopgap, because they need help at home, where their parents are and maybe younger siblings not in school.

If parents can only afford/have time to provide junk food, that's not a school problem, it's a societal one, and it needs to be addressed in that way.

I would love to take all the burden of feeding children off of the schools, so that they could simply teach, which is what they're designed to do.

If kids were being fed adequately due to sufficient welfare/food stamp or other programs so that they could take lunch/afford to buy school lunch, that would be great. If schools just got rid of the damn vending machines, that would be great. If government programs that fed people also helped them learn to cook and buy good food, that would be great.

If we could give a shit about doing things like that instead of handing out tax breaks to wealthy layabouts, that would be the best of all.
posted by emjaybee at 2:18 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think King's a real piece of excrement, so I want to be clear that I'm not holding his coat here.

That said, I think people on the left give him and his ilk an opening when they silently merge a couple of different issues.

Issue (1) is the proposition that "Kids should have access to good, nutritional, food." You'll find a lot of people much more conservative than the average MeFite who'll get on board with that.

But issue (2) is the proposition that "Kids' access to bad, empty, calories should be limited, even if their parents wish to allow it." That may, or may not be, a good idea. But regardless, it isn't the same idea, and it invites criticism about the nanny state, and about interference with the role of the parents in a way that issue (1) does not.

Fpor myself, I'd try and work on (1) before I started in on (2).
posted by tyllwin at 2:22 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would love to take all the burden of feeding children off of the schools, so that they could simply teach, which is what they're designed to do.

The National School Lunch Program has been around for 66 years. By now, almost all schools are designed to include feeding children.

If parents can only afford/have time to provide junk food, that's not a school problem, it's a societal one, and it needs to be addressed in that way.

Schools are part of society. A big part.
posted by grouse at 2:27 PM on September 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Technically they are legally required to have 30 minutes to eat lunch but that doesn't always happen.

It's been .. well, a long time since I've been in a elementary school, so how does this work?
From what I recall from being a kid, when it was lunch time(say, 11am?), we all lined up, filed on down to the cafeteria, ate lunch, then went outside for recess.
I don't honestly recall how long we had, but it was certainly more than 30 minutes. In middle school, it was 43 minutes.

So it apparently doesn't work that way anymore, so how does it work?
The French school lunch link suggests 10 minutes in Vancouver, which seems insane.
posted by madajb at 2:43 PM on September 9, 2012


Rep. Steve King (R-IA) thinks

No. No, he doesn't.
posted by uosuaq at 3:00 PM on September 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


Usually in elementary school it's 15 minutes for lunch and 15 minutes for recess. Once you get your lunch and to your seat, 10 minutes to eat is not uncommon.
posted by that's how you get ants at 3:02 PM on September 9, 2012


There is an expensive private school here that caters in fast food every day for lunch. (Mon is Chick Fil-A day, Tues is Pizza Hut day, etc) Obviously, private schools can do what they want, but it sure seems to be sending the wrong message. When I did a blog post about it somebody from Italy posted that week's school lunch menu at their local school.

I wept.
posted by COD at 3:26 PM on September 9, 2012


my school was not extremely large, but we still had a fair number of students. but i do remember that if i didn't plan on all but running to the cafeteria when it was my lunch period, i could wait up to half an hour in line, out of a 43 minute lunch period. we had two lines.

i remember seeing a special, maybe it was by jamie oliver, where they showed a school for troubled kids in like nyc or phila. they went to the cafeteria and it was QUIET, just the sort of murmuring you hear in a fine dining restaurant. ever since they had reformed the school food from sodexo or whoever to local foods from organic farms, the kids behavior problems went down dramatically.

i remember it was the superintendent or whoever was in charge of the school giving the tour. she said they were a charter school so they had more control over the lunch food served. they also got rid of all the vending machines. she said something along the lines of barely being able to believe it was the same kids.

i guess steve king and sarah palin haven't seen that or heard about it or anything.
posted by sio42 at 3:27 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


//i guess steve king and sarah palin haven't seen that or heard about it or anything.//

It wouldn't make a difference. King's and Palin's objections to school lunches have absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of kids.
posted by COD at 3:30 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's a program here in Cleveland (which is one of the poorest cities in the US, often THE poorest in the rankings depending on the year) managed by our Botanic Garden called Green Corps.

Participating kids get to work (and earn money!) while learning about business (they make and sell amazing salsa from the produce in the community gardens they build) and much more. They can even earn matching retirement money. It's like the entrepreneurial version of Alice Waters' school gardens initiative, and it's put some beautiful green spaces into neighborhoods that sadly lack them.

I wish there were more programs like this out there that could not only help teach city kids where food comes from but also develop their other skills.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:39 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


COD - you're right. i think that's probably why i can never wrap my around arguments some people make about these kinds of issues, because i think we're discussing the actual issue and not something else the issue is just a stand-in for. ugh.
posted by sio42 at 3:47 PM on September 9, 2012


"Food service" food from Sodhexo and whatnot is another problematic layer in all this. It's plastic non-filling non-food that I can't escape from, from elementary school through college (when the cafeteria wasn't even open most of the time and we had to go hungry) to my current corporate cafeteria. Always leaving me hungry and sad, even now when I'm not supposed to be dependent on them against my will.

God forbid feeding people actual food and enough of it gets in the way of corporate profits we can ship overseas.
posted by bleep at 3:56 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I wouldn't be so opposed to Palin's or King's odious viewpoint if there was maybe a way to "teach the controversy". Say, a few classes on nutrition and consumer choice taught among the older kids? That way they would know how to get their daily micronutrients, know how to read labels, and not get taken in by the flashiness and ease of junk foods.
posted by FJT at 4:00 PM on September 9, 2012


The Colbert Report:

Steve King's Dogfighting Defense

Todd Akin's Abortion Gaffe
posted by homunculus at 4:00 PM on September 9, 2012


Here's Steve King defending Todd Akin's comments about rape (or something):

For example, if there's a sexual predator out there who has impregnated a young girl, say a 13-year-old girl, ... that sexual predator can pick that girl off the playground at the middle school and haul her across the state line, and force her to get an abortion to eradicate the evidence of his crime, and bring her back and drop her off at the swing set, and that's not against the law in the United States of America.

I don't know what level of crazy is required to justify ignoring any and all statements from someone. But honestly, debating what Steve King has to say isn't worth anybody's time, as the words that come out of his mouth come from a source that is orthogonal to rationality. It's really depressing as hell that he is a US representative, and that there is some chance that he will be reelected, but I don't think talking about what he has to say as if it has any merit serves anybody well. Iowans should be asking Romney about his support for King ("...This man needs to be your congressman again. I want him as my partner in Washington, D.C.") every time Romney visits -- if he distanced himself from Akin, how does he see the two as different?

I liked the link to the descriptions of French school lunches, though.
posted by Killick at 4:08 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I liked the link to the descriptions of French school lunches, though.

Yeah but they don't have Freedom Fries over there. Steve King's no socialist, he's standing up for Freedom Fries.
posted by headnsouth at 4:13 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


While I'm sure Rep. King deserves to live on pink slime for a year in punishment for his various crimes (or may already live entirely on a diet of pink slime already...), it's not inconceivable that HHFKA combines a meager increase in funding for school lunches with increased regulatory requirements that actually make it more difficult to run the school food program.

the US is too large and too diverse to have a school food program driven by national standards. anyone who has kids knows that getting them to eat is really tricky. while I don't doubt it's possible to have locally sensitive meals that satisfy broad standards, a program that is driven by standard compliance is doomed to fail... and fail faster if it's done on a shoestring budget. the most likely way to get compliance on a tight budget is to outsource to the meal to a large corporation, but then it's hard to get meals that are both edible and healthy using that model.

but, given the links here, it's actually impossible to tell what's going on with HHFKA and conflating a decrease in the quality of meals (essentially King's complaint) with an expansion of access is dishonest. but, i guess there's little incentive for liberals to actually look at the details of the programs they nominally support.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:24 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


(just to be clear)

the linked Thinkprogress piece responds to King's accusation that the quality of school meals has deleteriously reduced the calories in school lunches (or at least what kids are eating of the lunches provided i.e. because there isn't enough junk food in the meal, kids are going hungry rather than eat what's provided) by saying (as if this were a fact check) that the program increases access to calories at school:
Though King says calories are being limited, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) actually expands student access to food by promoting breakfast programs and providing nation-wide funding to after-school programs that serve meals and snacks for at-risk kids and teenagers
this is not a response to King's criticism. it's not inconcievable that HHFKA actually makes the school lunch program less effective even if King and Palin are assholes.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:31 PM on September 9, 2012


The politics of failure have succeeded. We must stop them from working again.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:35 PM on September 9, 2012


Technically they are legally required to have 30 minutes to eat lunch but that doesn't always happen. Also, there's not necessarily anything to do afterwards so if it only takes them ten minutes to eat that's twenty minutes to run around and fight and scream and have SERIOUS behavior issues (don't ask me about lunch duty last year).

Sure, but this is part of the whole problem: you can't just fix one part (no fried foods!) and figure that the rest of it will all follow. I'm not saying I know what the solution is, because I don't, but there are a number of issues and forcing hungry kids to choose healthy foods or not eat isn't necessarily going to have the desired result, especially if those kids can get junk food at other times. The idea of serving a very nice lunch for everyone is great, and with multiple courses then at least someone who just doesn't like something (kids are allowed to have preferences, I assume) can eat, but when you have to interact with things like allergies and religious restrictions and ethical restrictions . . . it makes it really complicated. And then the school day doesn't, apparently, have time for a proper recess and a proper lunch (weird), or you can have lunch at any period, so not just around lunch time -- so you have to eat this healthy meal (or else) quickly and at a bizarre time.

I think the concept of serving healthy meals is laudable, but the execution is never going to work, so all it does is set up school lunch programs for failure.
posted by jeather at 4:42 PM on September 9, 2012


Usually in elementary school it's 15 minutes for lunch and 15 minutes for recess. Once you get your lunch and to your seat, 10 minutes to eat is not uncommon.

This must vary widely from place to place. At my youngest son's elementary school, lunch is 40 minutes and includes playground time after the kids are done eating, and they have morning and afternoon recess as well, which is much like what I remember from elementary school 40 years ago.
posted by not that girl at 4:44 PM on September 9, 2012


anyone who has kids knows that getting them to eat is really tricky.

I have kids and you know what? It really isn't tricky at all. Give kids healthy food consistently and they're eventually going to eat healthy food.

The problem is not that kids don't eat it. The problem is that, just like a quality public school education, it costs more than people like King and Palin want to spend.
posted by headnsouth at 4:50 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have kids and you know what? It really isn't tricky at all. Give kids healthy food consistently and they're eventually going to eat healthy food.

Heh.
My child enjoys a limited but relatively healthy array of foods.
She won't eat chicken nuggets or french fries, for example, and (rightfully) thinks ketchup is an abomination.

However, if you tried to feed her lunch, healthy or not, at 10:30 in the morning, she'd balk entirely.
Now, she's not in school yet, and I accept there is a certain amount of "you're going to have to eat what you've got when you've got it" that she's going to have to learn to be a functioning adult, but not every kid will chow down on whatever you put in front of them.
posted by madajb at 5:37 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I went to watch the video of Steve King's dogfighting/rape remarks and apart from the offensive remarks quoted above, it's the most rambling and incoherent thing I've heard. It basically goes like this:

Steve King: Listen, I'm just trying to say that we shouldn't elevate animals above humans, that's all.......for example, if there’s a sexual predator out there who has impregnated a young girl, say a 13-year-old girl — and it happens in America more times than you and I like to think — that sexual predator can pick that girl up off the playground at the middle school and haul across the state line and force her to get an abortion to eradicate the evidence of his crime and bring her back and drop her off at the swing set and that’s not against the law in the United States of America.....and I think that we need to not elevate animal welfare above humans, and that's my stance...it shouldn't be taken to mean that I support dogfighting.....I have broken up a few dog fights in my lifetime....I have scars.....sometimes those dogs just start something up and you have to jump in.....break up the fight....I've broken up quite a few dogfights....I haven't started any dogfights.....I have some great dogs......bird dogs, pointers....I take my dogs to the field....what would I do if I didn't have my dogs to go to the field with me....I love my dogs....(video cuts off)

THREE WEEKS LATER:

Steve King: I've never heard of a child getting pregnant from rape
posted by triggerfinger at 7:59 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I speak as an Iowa resident. Steve King, like Senator Charles Grassley, is an utter embarrassment to the people of Iowa. That they were ever voted into their jobs is completely incomprehensible to me and many thousands of other Iowa residents. I hope you'll remember this whenever you think about or hear about us here in Iowa.
posted by Galadhwen at 8:08 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem is not that kids don't eat it. The problem is that, just like a quality public school education, it costs more than people like King and Palin want to spend.

I don't think that is the problem. The problem is typically that freshly cooked, healthy food offers limited commercial opportunities for food and foodservice companies. And cutting out the sale of sodas and chocolate on campus limits commercialism further.

So the judo trick is to turn "limiting commercial opportunities" into a personal freedom narrative - "you can't have what you want." Dietary dependency on sugar and fat is a metaphor and a real motivator to vote irrationally and a neat soundbite to generations that have never known food shortages unless they are really quite old. We joke about Chick Fil-A or McDonald's monopoly on french fries in the Olympic Park but this a key way how voters are being conditioned to see freedom - to eat what you want.

The nanny state is a powerful metaphor. But we're yet to have the debate on why so many adults end up so stupid, so misinformed, pursuing ends so contrary to their own interests, and what that says about the education system and campaign reform. It's the whole reframing of civil liberties around important issues such as the right to eat a Big Mac in school at 9am and away from trivial things like illegal wiretapping, mass incarceration and voter participation.

When people bring the nanny state up, I just want to teleport them to places like Finland and Norway with strong government and state support/intervention and ask them if they genuinely think they people that live there are less free. As an aside: the US, the apparent seat of democratic freedom, is ranked 19th in the world. Below Malta and Uruguay.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:21 AM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Huh. I thought the standard GOP party line was to get rid of the NSLP entirely.

Hunger can be a positive motivator, etc.

Guess King didn't get the memo.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:24 AM on September 10, 2012


I moved to Iowa when I was three years old, lived here up through high school, and am delighted to be back as an adult. I love every "flat and boring" inch of this state. That is, every inch except those which Steve King occupies at any given time. Every time I hear his name, I duck my head in shame that he represents my state. We Iowans in the eastern half of the state generally think he missed his ration of common sense.
posted by epj at 8:42 PM on September 10, 2012


Tonight my school-lunch dinner was:
Entree & Grain: Chicken and vegetable stir fry on brown rice (a little underseasoned compared to what I would have done at home, but really very tasty)
"Cooked" Veggie: Coleslaw (didn't try, don't eat coleslaw)
Raw Veggie: Salad that was so pretty in the serving bowl that I felt bad serving myself (lettuce, a bit on the icebergy side, tomatoes, cukes, olives, carrots, a bit of cheese; choice of dressings)
Fruit: Pineapple (cut in chunks, not rings). I actually saw that on the school menu today and got kinda excited it would be not-hand-fruit.
Dessert: Thin chocolate chip cookies about 2.5" in diameter that I think were made with white-wheat flour but I forgot to ask

Coleslaw is a pretty random match to stir fry, but they were doing the stir-fry "live" (usually we have reheated trays they make during actual lunch period six hours earlier), so that was cool. They always make the salad look appetizing in the serving bowl, but it was unusually pretty tonight. Anyway, the stir fry was nice, not greasy at all, vegetables pretty good quality. I had seconds of the salad, which was very good tonight, but I suspect the ranch dressing of containing crack, so I always want more ranch-conveyance vegetables. The pineapples were a little drab and colorless, but I often think the fruit we get is a bit sub-par and very corporate ... apples that keep forever, oranges that aren't very sweet, you know, usual "fruit bowl" things. So it's not the pineapples' fault. But I saw when I looked at the menu that they have a much wider range of fruit listed than last year (kiwis and strawberries!), so that's encouraging.

So, my verdict on tonight dinner was: A bit bland (seasoning, sad fruit), but pretty healthy, prepared in a healthy way, and definitely something I would eat again. Tasted pretty good.

One of my colleagues is always so upset when it's Salisbury Steak night, because now the salisbury steak is identifiable as meat, and he says, "I want it back like it was when I was in high school and it was made of processed meat product!" I always tell him, don't worry, this is still pretty gross. That's the one school-lunch-for-dinner meal I've had where my reaction was "blech." Having never had it before, I assume drowning low-quality meat in tons of unnamed brown sauce is how it's supposed to work? Not a fan.

(I put "cooked" in quotes because I don't actually know if you cook coleslaw or what.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:16 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tea Party favorite Steve King in trouble: Two new polls show Iowa Republican and Tea Party favorite Steve King in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent
posted by homunculus at 12:16 AM on September 28, 2012


Todd Akin Says He Knows He’s Winning Because His Female Opponent Is Getting Less ‘Ladylike’
posted by homunculus at 12:33 AM on September 28, 2012


Just was talking with a few people this week about kids who are still hungry school lunches. The complaints came in three main categories:

1) Kids who eat meals made primarily of fat and protein, with some (usually refined) grains and few fruits or veggies. These kids are super-hungry after school lunch, no matter how large, because they don't feel full without a lot more fat. Their problem is their diet is terrible.

2) Carb-hounds who like to fill up on grains; the grain servings have gotten smaller (and the veggie and fruit servings much larger) to meet guidelines for serving size. Kids can basically eat all the fruit and veggies they want, but grain servings are limited. These kids are usually okay with the lunches, but they miss their carbs. Most of these kids actually know what their problem is, but some days they do a better job than others eating enough to keep them full from a more balanced meal.

3) Very athletic (or active) children, especially those who go directly to after-school sports, because their day is quite long, and they're burning way more calories than their peers. These kids need more food, or at the least a very nutritious, balanced snack after school.

This week we had cold chicken-and-veggie wraps, very heavy on the veggies, with this sweet-hot sauce/spread for them that was SO HOT tears were streaming down my face and my nose was running but SO GOOD I couldn't stop eating it and I was super-sad when I ran out of wrap before I ran out of sauce because I thought licking the sauce container would be inappropriate in public. It was a hummus base, I think. The wraps were pretty generic, but the sauce was DELICIOUS. I couldn't believe I got something so strongly-spiced in a school lunch. Also a large serving of cut fruit (good), nearly twice as large as last year; a cookie (meh; clearly a transfat recipe without the transfat, so texture was sub-par); and since it was a boxed lunch for adults, chips. Also I've noticed that since the new guidelines came in, they only give us water, iced tea, and sometimes 100% juice in small serving size bottles. We have to get our own sodas now!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:35 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


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