'Do Right and Feed Everyone'
January 18, 2020 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Trump to Roll Back Michelle Obama's School Lunch Rules (The Hill, WaPo, LA Times, USDA) In 2019, after reducing regulations about sodium content, whole grains, and flavored milk, the USDA allowed schools to serve potatoes rather than fruit with breakfast. This most recent proposal, which reduces fruit serving sizes and permits potatoes to be served as a lunch vegetable every day, was unveiled on the former first lady's birthday.
posted by box (89 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pro-level trolling.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:04 AM on January 18 [6 favorites]


[One deleted. We can criticize this/trump without insulting fat people in the bargain.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:23 AM on January 18 [36 favorites]


disgusting
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 8:32 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


I find this sad.

Why harm kids by presenting them with garbage foods that will only make their health worse?

(and potato is a garbage vegetable, especially in the ways it is normally cooked)

At Lil'Ubu's school, which might be a State Dept of Education rule, they have a little break during class before recess.

This is called "Crunch'n'sip".

Parents are required to pack fresh fruit and/or veges only, and a drink. I only ever provide water, because water & milk are all we drink here anyway.

The fruit & veg can be anything from carrot sticks to strawberries (LU's favourite) or any seasonal goodies. Whatever they like. But fresh. Not deep fried. Not mashed with HFCS and butter-substitute. Not slathered with rich creamery butter.

Just fresh. raw. fruit or veg.

This helps the kids get a serve of goodness, while decreasing the appetite for shitty recess snacks.

But potatoes? Fucking useless garbage. At least mandate sweet potatoes. They have nutritional value.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:33 AM on January 18 [8 favorites]


Potatoes are absolutely not garbage in and of themselves. They pack a decent amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. But highly processed potatoes served with every meal is a terrible idea.
posted by LindsayIrene at 8:41 AM on January 18 [80 favorites]


> Why harm kids by presenting them with garbage foods that will only make their health worse?

To own the libs. That's it.

Usually, there's an obvious grifting angle when POTUS45 does something like this, but if there's evidence that he's more in the pocket of Big Potato than Big Broccoli, I haven't seen it.

Michelle Obama wanted kids to be healthier, and 90% of why POTUS45 wakes up in the morning is to undo everything the Obamas did, so here we are. The libs have been owned, and now he can talk at his rallies about how how much he triggered those broccoli-eaters and undid another plank in the Obama legacy. MAGA.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:44 AM on January 18 [65 favorites]


There’s nothing inherently bad about potatoes; potatoes have lots of good nutrients. One potato has:
Vitamin C: 37% of the RDI
Vitamin B6: 31% of the RDI
Potassium: 27% of the RDI
Manganese: 20% of the RDI
...and even some fiber and protein!

There is something wrong with using them to replace fruit, and eating them with multiple meals every day, almost certainly fried or otherwise processed so as to destroy or negate the nutrition I quoted above.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:45 AM on January 18 [36 favorites]


Cool, more ways to eviscerate public schools and punish people who rely on them.
posted by hijinx at 8:45 AM on January 18 [12 favorites]


I'm not in favor of the USDA proposal here, and do favor providing children with more healthful options in their school meals beyond french fries.

But - Parents are required to pack fresh fruit and/or veges only
Is problematic for low-income parents, parents living in areas without good access to grocery stores, and to parents of kids who don't eat these things for sensory reasons.

It's awesome if your 8 year old loves fruit and carrots but that's 100% luck and not your amazing parenting. And no one needs orthorexy added to the list of challenges that elementary school presents for neurodiverse or disadvantaged kids.
posted by jeoc at 8:53 AM on January 18 [46 favorites]


There’s nothing inherently bad about potatoes; potatoes have lots of good nutrients. One potato has:
Vitamin C: 37% of the RDI
Vitamin B6: 31% of the RDI
Potassium: 27% of the RDI
Manganese: 20% of the RDI
...and even some fiber and protein!


I'd never dispute that but those facts are meaningless in themselves unless compared with other veges.

Also, how many calories need to be consumed to get those nutrients?

On top of that, how many fats have to be added to potatoes to make kids eat them?

I'm the kind of gym rat who will lecture you on protein-to-fat ratios in cheeses and I won't touch a potato unless I absolutely have to.

And then I would probably spit it out discreetly if I could.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:54 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


My daughter said her experience with school lunch during the Obama era is that it was still shitty pizza, but it was shitty whole wheat crust pizza instead. So, I wonder really how much of this will change. or how much school lunch really changed under Michelle Obama's direction.
posted by vespabelle at 9:02 AM on January 18 [10 favorites]


Why harm kids by presenting them with garbage foods that will only make their health worse?

The cruelty is the point.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:08 AM on January 18 [25 favorites]


I bet Barron and the Kuschner kids get healthy food all day every day.

My daughter was a terribly picky eater for a couple of years during kindergarten. We ignored it, kept serving the family dinner and let her eat what she like from the table. At kindergarten, she was served healthy meals with tons of veg and she ate every bite. The teachers said it was the rule that kids who were picky at home ate everything at the family style meal there. This is why I always support the French/Italian style school lunch, where children sit together with a teacher at a table and have a full, healthy meal. It was a huge help for me that our daughter had at least one good meal a day during those picky years. And when she finally began eating at home, she was an adventurous eater. Here, school meals become voluntary at either 4 or 6 years, depending on where you live, but if you elect them, they are still healthy.
posted by mumimor at 9:08 AM on January 18 [9 favorites]


Did I just have a comment deleted?

Been away too long, not familiar with current moderation rules, so sorry about whatever.

I feel sorry for supposed first world countries where fresh fruit & veg are hard to come by.

And every kid I have ever known has devoured fresh fruit given the opportunity.

Also: boo potatoes.

Love to all. Hope you come up with a system that allows people to easily access good food.

*eats third mango of day*
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:15 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


[One deleted earlier. There's no reason for this to turn into a fight about whether feeding your kid fresh fruit is necessary to be a good parent; that doesn't work sometimes, poor families don't have access, some kids don't/can't eat fruit for whatever reason. Both of those can be sore points because poor families and families where the kids are "different" in one way or another often get judgy comments about their bad parenting for exactly this kind of reason; so a comment like that can land a lot harsher and more personal than it's intended.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:19 AM on January 18 [23 favorites]


Potatoes are not bad for you, just like rice isn't bad for you. No, it doesn't substitute for eating vegetables, but jeez it's not "garbage food" until it's highly processed with a bunch of fat and nonsense added, and let's not blame the potato for that.

I am not a hardcore gym rat but I'm pretty fit and healthy and I eat potatoes *all the time* (mostly baked).
posted by stillnocturnal at 9:23 AM on January 18 [39 favorites]


Substituting potatoes for vegetables is terrible though, I want to be clear on that. It's more of a pasta / rice / bread substitute.
posted by stillnocturnal at 9:26 AM on January 18 [7 favorites]


The Trump administration has done plenty of things to horrify me, but this isn't one of them. I feel better about the motivation for the previous rules, but I'm not sure they were the best rules for the real world of school cafeterias. I live in an area where a lot of kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and I go to a lot of school board meetings (as a minute taker.) After Obama's rules went into effect, I heard people at a number of schools talking about how often kids were hungry and wanted seconds that the school wasn't allowed to give them. Last year my previously homeschooled daughter started going to our local high school and getting lunch from the cafeteria most days, and I was dismayed at the number of times she said she didn't get enough to fill her up. She's a really small kid, probably one of the smallest in the whole school, and she doesn't have a huge appetite. If she was still hungry after lunch, I hate to think how hungry some of the other kids must have been. (They're allowed to eat all the salad they want, but it's hard to fill yourself up on salad, even if you're that rare bird of a teenager who really enjoys eating lots of salad.) The idea of growing kids who might not have enough food at home being offered something filling like pizza or a burger doesn't actually seem all that awful to me.

My daughter described the cafeteria meals to me and sometimes took pictures of the really bad ones, and though she liked some of them, some of them were really, really unappetizing, things those of us with choices would never choose to eat. Like a hunk of dry, lightly-seasoned chicken and nothing else on a stale bun. It's great to provide kids with healthy choices, but if what you're offering is too different from what those kids want to eat and are used to eating at home, and the differences are things that make food unappetizing to kids (lack of salt, lack of fat, unfamiliar vegetables), kids are going to find other things to eat whenever possible and those things are pretty much guaranteed not to meet Michelle Obama's guidelines. I'm sure most of us can think of things we eat at restaurants or make at home that are delicious without being too sweet or fatty or salty, but you have to keep in mind that the people cooking school lunches are constrained by budget, time and the practicality of preparing for a crowd, and they are probably not restaurant-quality chefs. The reality is that the Obama guidelines made it even harder to prepare food that kids would find appetizing.

I suspect a middle ground where kids are offered foods they will actually be willing to eat, even if they aren't the healthiest possible foods, might work out better for more kids. It doesn't matter how healthy the lunch is if kids are throwing away the most vitamin-rich parts and/or feeling the need to supplement by adding a lot of high-sugar, high-fat snacks to fill themselves up.
posted by Redstart at 9:26 AM on January 18 [26 favorites]


I don't think in practice school lunches really changed our improved that much. My kid's school doesn't even have a kitchen (it was built in an era where kids went home for lunch), it gets breakfasts and lunches tricked in from a central kitchen. Those meals are both 100% free for all children who want one because food insecurity and hunger are bigger issues at his school than whether kids learn to eat a mango.

(Kid pickiness has nothing to do with parenting "correctly". Ask any adult foodie parent of a mac-and-cheesatarian. If you have adventurous eating kids, congrats, you lucked out. But it was luck.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:28 AM on January 18 [19 favorites]


I wonder who Idaho voted for?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:39 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


[Hi LobsterMitten, thanks for the explanation. You rock and MetaFilter remains the best moderated place on teh intarwebs. Truly unique, and I've been literally everywhere.]
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:40 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


I'm sure most of us can think of things we eat at restaurants or make at home that are delicious without being too sweet or fatty or salty, but you have to keep in mind that the people cooking school lunches are constrained by budget, time and the practicality of preparing for a crowd, and they are probably not restaurant-quality chefs. The reality is that the Obama guidelines made it even harder to prepare food that kids would find appetizing.

I'm commenting from across the ocean, but if anything, our costs are more challenging. Food in Europe is more expensive than in the States because of higher standards.
One of my friends was the head of school meals in our district, and she hired in my daughter as a kitchen aid, so I got a good look into what they were doing. First of all: buying in bulk for an entire school district, or just a school, is completely different from even most restaurants. They were able to provide 90% organic food within a year, because they can make providers change their methods. They got the hospital cooks on board too, and the produce providers just had to get on board. They did have to change the proportion of meat to veg, but they had to do that for nutritional reasons anyway. Whining about costs is just whining, sorry. Not sorry.
Second, if the local cooks are not educated, it's up to the school district to educate them. My friend took on a couple of fights, and it was hard, but she was able to get my somewhat lazy 16 year old educated. It's really not rocket science. It's management, and managers that can't do management need to learn it.
Third, I think the biggest challenge when cooking for hundreds or thousands is seasoning. You have to spice things up a bit to compensate for transportation and waiting time, and that is hard. I don't think my friend cracked that nut entirely. But most of the kids eating her food would disagree..
posted by mumimor at 9:42 AM on January 18 [13 favorites]


Washington produces more potatoes than Idaho, really.
posted by hippybear at 9:43 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


I hate that kids’ food and eating habits are being used as a political football (or even a political focus) by anyone. Like many other things involving kids, how to get them fed in an optimally healthy and happy way is far more complex than it gets treated when it becomes a political discussion. I am not going to deny that childhood obesity can cause serious health problems, but I’m not sure making public school lunches the tip of the spear on the fight against childhood obesity is all that helpful, as if fat kids didn’t already feel like the center of negative attention in school at times. In contrast, making food (any food) free and available at school is an undeniable good for kids who don’t have enough to eat at home, which is an embarrassingly huge amount of kids here in the US. I would have liked to see some of the energy that went to “Let’s Move” go toward “Let’s Make Sure No Kid Starves in America.”

(Potatoes can be a lovely and delicious part of a balanced diet.)
posted by sallybrown at 9:59 AM on January 18 [18 favorites]


Also from across the ocean, and school lunches don't exist here at all. Smaller schools don't even have a cafeteria.
posted by dmh at 10:26 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Many of my Canadian friends have reported that it's 100% pack lunch in their districts, no school-provided lunch.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:47 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]


The quality of school lunches can vary widely from district to district. I work in a district with an excellent food program. No one's getting just dry chicken on a bun for lunch. If a school is serving food that's inadequate in quantity and quality, the problem isn't that the cooks don't know what they're doing, it's a lack of funding. It's a lack of respect for public education. It's the desire to punish the poor.
posted by LindsayIrene at 11:04 AM on January 18 [12 favorites]


posted by UbuRoivas
potato is a garbage vegetable, especially in the ways it is normally cooked
But potatoes? Fucking useless garbage. At least mandate sweet potatoes. They have nutritional value.
Also: boo potatoes.


Don't yuck someone else's yum.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:27 AM on January 18 [15 favorites]


Don't yuck someone else's yum

oh Christ when are people going to stop saying this
posted by thelonius at 12:04 PM on January 18 [10 favorites]


Don't yuck someone else's yum.

Bless you for bringing that video into my life!
posted by sallybrown at 12:08 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


That song will be stuck in my head for the rest of my life, and I’m fine with it.

I want to reiterate that self-congratulating about one’s own healthy lifestyle choices and awesome parenting is kind of unhelpful here. So many people have food sensitivities. I’ve about had it with people telling me cauliflower (which will send me racing to the loo, begging for death) is healthier than potatoes (which won’t). Moreover, as a recovered bulimic I am unimpressed by smug food-policing and exercise-bragging. Hypokalemia nearly killed me; I’ll use and replenish my goddamn electrolytes how I please now.

When I look at Trump, I think of a man kissing his own ass and then shouting from the rooftops about how good it tastes. Can we try to be a little bit less like that?
posted by armeowda at 12:38 PM on January 18 [28 favorites]


We provide school lunches in the US because we do not otherwise provide meaningful food aid to families with children in the US. The US is a shitty place for people who need social services or any sort of support from their government to survive.
posted by crush at 12:58 PM on January 18 [27 favorites]


Why harm kids by presenting them with garbage foods that will only make their health worse?

Pandering to potato farmers and their votes, obviously.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:13 PM on January 18


Why harm kids by presenting them with garbage foods that will only make their health worse?

It's simply trolly own-the-libs BS with a side helping of crapping over everything the Obamas did. Same with bulb standards and low-flow toilets. The MAGA crowd loves this stuff.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:22 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]


Many of my Canadian friends have reported that it's 100% pack lunch in their districts, no school-provided lunch.

My oldest is in high school now and it’s the first year he’s had a cafeteria. My younger sons school just partnered with a private for-profit meal service so he can have one meal delivered on Thursdays but it’s pretty pricey.

Schools in priority neighborhoods have free breakfast (breakfast club). Having worked in schools in the past, I have seen kids go hungry.

I feel undecided on the state of lunch in our schools. On the one hand, I appreciate the simplicity of packed lunches, kosher, halal, vegan, gluten-free, whatever, lunches. On the other, I know there are families really struggling. I would much rather support families better than create questionable cafeterias, and I don’t think we would be prepared to fund the kind of family-style lunches I would want schools to have. But meanwhile there are hungry kids.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:27 PM on January 18


Which is better, a meal with a sweet potato side dish 20% of kids will eat (with the other 80% getting no vegetable at all and some of them left hungry) or a meal with a potato side dish 70% of kids will eat? I just pulled those percentages out of the air and I could be wrong about how much the average kid likes sweet potato, but I'm pretty sure I'm not wrong to think the vast majority prefer potatoes. It's great to introduce kids to healthier alternatives, but there needs to be some realism about what they actually want to eat and how much school lunch rules can change that.
posted by Redstart at 1:39 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]


I'm the kind of gym rat who will lecture you on protein-to-fat ratios in cheeses and I won't touch a potato unless I absolutely have to. And then I would probably spit it out discreetly if I could.

You say this with pride, but this reaction is so extreme that I'm hoping it's hyperbole. It sounds a lot like an unhealthy fixation on avoiding "bad" foods. Potatoes are a part of healthy traditional diets around the world. The problem is when they are too processed or eaten too much. Also, not everyone is trying to minimize calories!

Regarding the fresh fruits and veggies rule specifically: Some people are actually allergic to fresh fruits and vegetables! It sucks. One of my friends has it. She can have cooked fruits and vegetables, but not most fresh ones, because the fresh ones provoke an allergic reaction. Cooking them breaks down the proteins that cause the allergic reaction.

And yeah, I'm relatively privileged and have relatively easy access to grocery stores, but there are still some weeks when I run out of perishable fruits and vegetables before the weekend because I've been too busy to make it to the store. Issues of access should always be taken into consideration when it comes to rules about what kids should bring to eat at school.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:46 PM on January 18 [30 favorites]


My kids preferred packed lunches. It was a little bit of love every day, and the other kids envied them.
But if I were a politician, I'd go with the family style school lunch. I was a hungry child. I won't say I starved, but I was hungry, and 10 kg below my curve, and it's a good indicator that my daughters are respectively ten and twenty cm taller than me, with regular sized dads. While we lived in the UK, I had school lunches, and they were horrible but they were food, made from scratch from fresh produce. I loved them.
It's like there are two discussions here, and from the point of view of a hungry child, I find one more important than the other: there are millions of kids who are not fed like they should be. When I was a child, that led to underweight and malnutrition. Now, the exact same thing leads to obesity and an other form of malnutrition. I feel society needs to address that problem first.

There's an other discussion about wether kids should be forced to eat their veg, or if carbs are evil. Here I just want to point out that in the most of the world, this is not an issue. There's like a sliding scale from the US over the Anglo world to Europe to everywhere else, where it is seen as horrible to eat broccoli in some US families and delicious to eat saag aloo in India. We have that discussion in my own family, so I'm not resolved on anything. But I do think that if children in say, Mexico, can eat vegetables every day, so can my children. I'm not going to let them discuss it.
posted by mumimor at 1:54 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]


I could be wrong about how much the average kid likes sweet potato

Is your average kid white?
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 1:58 PM on January 18 [9 favorites]


Parents are required to pack fresh fruit and/or veges only

Where the hell did this bullshit come from? Sounds like Republican conspiracy theories about government agents searching children's lunch boxes.

Issues of access should always be taken into consideration when it comes to rules about what kids should bring to eat at school.

The Michelle Obama lunch program has nothing to do with packed lunches. It makes fresh fruits and vegetables available to everyone who eats in the cafeteria. It has nothing to do with "issues of access". It is specifically designed to increase access.
posted by JackFlash at 2:17 PM on January 18 [9 favorites]


*eats third mango of day*

That's quite a bit of sugar: roughly 90g, or equivalent of 937 ml (nearly 32 fl oz) of cola. Twice the recommended daily intake of fruit in Canada. Fresh fruit can be an absolute sugar bomb and doesn't get a free pass in nutrition any more.
posted by scruss at 3:06 PM on January 18 [8 favorites]


I just pulled those percentages out of the air and I could be wrong about how much the average kid likes sweet potato, but I'm pretty sure

When people do this with issues like climate change, or vaccinations, it's generally frowned upon...

This thread I think has been a good illustration about how attitudes to food and especially children and food are culturally mediated - and perhaps also just how much of an outlier America is when it comes to food and nutrition. I think that a lot of things people take for granted, about what kids will and won't eat, what's "normal", what we expect a good diet is for kids etc, are social, not biological.
posted by smoke at 3:25 PM on January 18 [7 favorites]


At least where I went to school a bit over a decade ago, I could see how you could go hungry if fruits and vegetables were introduced in leiu of more filling food because often times the produce was garbage. Rock hard pears and kiwis, flavorless iceberg lettuce and radishes, rusty red delicious apples, dry oranges. As a kid who faced food insecurity and genuinely liked fruit, I would often time store the pears in my locker to help them ripen but I often didn't have the patience or there weren't enough sugars in the pear to ripen to begin with. School lunch was often times the most substantial meal I'd get in a day even if it was just fries and pizza, and to think of kids in a similar situation not having access to quality, decent food or at least filling food is a real bummer.

I know it's not a great perspective, but if I had to choose calories over nutrient I would choose calories every time.
posted by Philipschall at 3:45 PM on January 18 [11 favorites]



I know it's not a great perspective, but if I had to choose calories over nutrient I would choose calories every time.


But the reason there wasn't ripe fruit or filling meals is bad management. It isn't even bad cooking and it has nothing to do with Obama. The person responsible for buying and planning needs to have a vision, and also a real concept of what kids need. Look at the meals offered to Italian kids I posted above, I bet any child or teen would feel good after one of those. I find it really hard to understand that food professionals don't get this.

My mum is in a nursing home and all the old people hate the food there. I'm going to have to get into what is wrong there, and not looking forward to the fight. It's not like I live in a food paradise. But I do feel you can expect quality in both taste and nutrition from public providers.
posted by mumimor at 3:58 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


On the potato topic, I get lunch most days from work. I’m really lucky, I know. But on some days, there isn’t a starch available that I can eat, due to allergy issues. On those days, I lose my ability to focus and get a slamming headache partway through the afternoon. No amount of fruit or even veg would solve that issue.
posted by mantecol at 4:47 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]


You say this with pride, but this reaction is so extreme that I'm hoping it's hyperbole

Yes, a lot of hyperbole in there. I even posted an AskMe about potato recipes once.

Where the hell did this bullshit [about Parents required to pack fresh fruit and/or veges only] come from? Sounds like Republican conspiracy theories about government agents searching children's lunch boxes.

It's a New South Wales government initiative, and apparently non-mandatory. Schools can sign up voluntarily.

Unlike the USA, it's easy & cheap for parents to buy fresh fruit and veges here.

Crunch&Sip® is a set time in primary schools for students to ‘refuel’ on vegetables, salad and fruit and ‘rehydrate’ with water. Students who are not hungry and are well hydrated perform better in the classroom, show increased concentration, and are less likely to be irritable and disruptive. Many students are not eating enough vegetables and fruit or keeping sufficiently hydrated.

It was an overstatement to say parents HAVE to pack such things, but if you pack chips or chocolate bars (etc) then the kids have to wait until recess to eat them. It's a good way to encourage healthy eating, and I've never heard any parent even whisper a word against it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:14 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


Look at the meals offered to Italian kids I posted above, I bet any child or teen would feel good after one of those. I find it really hard to understand that food professionals don't get this.

I don't want to continue this derail, but the food professionals are not the ones setting the budgets. Also, I hate to be That American but the U.S. is very different from Italy or France in terms of things like population of primary school students (the U.S has nine times as many as Italy, for instance.)

I had more, but instead of listening to me I think anybody who wants to know more about how the U.S. school lunch system works and its history should check out this 2017 long read from HuffPo that uses Jamie "Fat-Shaming" Oliver's (in)famous revamping of the school lunches in Huntington, West Virginia in 2009 as a jumping-off point and follows up with what's been happening in Huntington since. There's a lot of detail about the part U.S. national politics plays in school food (TIL that Maine is one of the states that keeps potatoes so prevalent in school lunch) _and_ a useful perspective on exactly what constraints community school lunch directors are trying to work within. Especially in places without a lot of money (TIAlsoL that Jamie Oliver's show was only able to do such an "upgrade" on the food in Huntington by having the production company pay for part of it -- welcome back, 10-year-old mad at Jamie Oliver!)

(Also, potatoes have too much potassium for my busted kidneys so I'm not supposed to eat them -- somebody eat a baked potato for me, please. omg all the potato talk is killing me.
posted by camyram at 6:14 PM on January 18 [13 favorites]


I wish I could take back the potato derail.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:15 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Don't yuck someone else's yum.

Yam, surely
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:42 PM on January 18 [11 favorites]


I’ve never heard any parent whisper a word against it.

You haven’t talked to my sisters, who both have nonneurotypical children with severe psychological food sensitivities. One gave me the explanation that, for her daughter, watching someone eat many supposedly normal foods would be like watching a person eat earthworms. Honestly, you have no idea what this is like if you haven’t met children who suffer from it. For them, only being allowed fruits and vegetables for snacks would often mean going hungry.

Most people have foods they can’t stand, but adults are never forced to eat those foods. Imagine your most hated food. Now imagine being told it’s the only thing you can eat at your next meal.
posted by FencingGal at 7:06 PM on January 18 [7 favorites]


Seriously, find which gazillionaire makes most of his fortunes from potatoes and follow the donation money to Trump.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:17 PM on January 18


I’m the kind of gym rat who will lecture you on the protein-to-fat ratio of cheeses and I won’t touch a potato unless I absolutely have to.

EWWW. You eat CHEESE? Do you know what’s in that?
Seriously, maybe none of us should lecture people on food. I really won’t touch cheese for very good reasons I won’t go into. And potatoes aren’t bad for you unless you slice them into pieces and deep fry them in oil. But you do you - except for the lecturing part.
posted by FencingGal at 7:18 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]


I am very sorry to hear that, but I'm certain that exceptions could be made, and are made for outliers like them.

There's probably not a single policy of any kind, anywhere in the world, that can cater for 100% of the population and it's up to those who implement the policies to be sensitive to that.

At a school level, I have no doubt that a quiet word between the parent and teacher would be the only thing required.

For most parents, I'm sure we all struggle to get our kids to get their daily serves of fresh fruit and veg and for kids who aren't like your nieces/nephews it's a great initiative to normalise healthy eating amongst their peers.

There must be something they could eat that counts as nutritional during a snack time like this?

The point of the programme is to give kids a nutritional snack during the school day when energy levels may be flagging, to help with both their health and their education, and there are many ways to skin that cat.

On preview: cheese is objectively disgusting if you think about it, but so are many other things like prawns, oysters, and realistically all meat & seafood. Kombucha is pretty gross, and I make it. A scoby is horrific.

Cheese is fun in a gross way, because almost certainly it was discovered by accident when somebody a very long time ago decided to take milk instead of water in his/her drinking bottle made out of a cow's innards.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:23 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]


Dear heavens you know the potatoes will be frozen over processed French fries.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:42 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


Nah, I bet at least some will be lumpless potato paste that would make any Midwestern grandmother sob.
posted by Rat Spatula at 8:02 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


No, that is not how cheese was discovered. Someone butchered a calf (of some kind) and found a white sticky substance in its stomach and said "cheeeeezzzzzeee."

I say this as a cheese lover, but it must surely be true.
posted by sjswitzer at 8:52 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Why is there no Big Broccoli? Why actually is there lobbying for potatoes, but not for broccoli?
posted by Hediot at 9:20 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Wow, that is phenomenally disgusting.

Makes me wonder about that Bible/Torah line "Do not boil a calf in it's mother's milk" that gave rise to the Kosher injunction against combining meat and dairy. Cheese inside meat inside milk is like an old-timey Turducken.

Also a cheese lover, so much so that I cannot keep it in the house. Have often devoured the whole lot in a sitting ("Mmmm...64 slices of American cheese" but with real cheese). Now reserved only for seriously good stuff on platters at restaurants.

Supposedly cattle were first domesticated for meat, and to tap their blood as various tribal people continue to do these days.

The lactose-tolerant gene can be traced back, and gave a comparative advantage to those who could tolerate cow milk in addition to flesh and warm blood.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:27 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I amplified a derail about cheese. Let's get this back to school lunches and Trump's trolling, please.
posted by sjswitzer at 9:49 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Not loving the multi-comment semi-offensive derails from a non-American on a FPP about an American issue regarding school lunches, poverty, and our current government. Considering, shall we say, the rightful notion that non-UK residents/non-Europeans should be mindful of commenting on Brexit posts, how about a similar injunction against people coming into posts on American political and social issues and completely missing the point due to their non-US cultural biases, and then continuing to comment when called out by both users and mods.

Anyways, speaking as someone raised with a vegetable garden in the back, veggies were some of the only foods I would eat as a child due to my sensory processing issues. OF course veggies alone were no proper diet and I was very thin. At the time I went to elementary school my parents were able to afford my tuition- but were never going to be able to pay for a school lunch so it was packed. Due to my severe dairy intolerance fake-cheese sandwiches were often on the menu. I did not gain weight. I of course, because our culture is supremely fucked up- and despite being bullied for every other aspect of me, was often praised for my thinness. When I wasn't bullied for my apparent but non-existent anorexia. The only good thing to come out of my parent's thriftiness and America's unwillingness to subsidize a proper lunch/nutrition guidelines like lucky countries like Australia, is that now at work I save a lot of money by packing my own lunches, which can be quite elaborate as while I still have very rigid texture preferences, I've learned a lot about how to hack my autism. Now I'm at a healthier weight, and a great deal of muscle to boot.

And I have a small portion of home-made potato salad with every packed lunch.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:32 PM on January 18 [17 favorites]


Some reflection on how other countries do it differently could, theoretically, lead to useful discussion of how the US could do it better. But I hear you... that is never going to happen.
posted by sjswitzer at 10:44 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


I apologise for that.

I initially made an on-topic comment regarding a healthy eating initiative here and stupidly made an aside about a particular food that I wish I had never made.

The moderated comment was in response to another moderated comment which you didn't see, along the lines of very atypical people not being able to eat certain foods, as if that disproves the concept of giving kids good food.

As a parent, I applaud initiatives that help our kids eat healthy food, whatever that is, and taking into account that not all foods can be eaten by all people.

I have no angst with you or anybody else here.

And I believe we are all on the exact same page about our kids getting the best nutrition possible, and international perspectives could be useful info, or not. We don't have cafeteria lunches, for example. There's no concept anywhere in Australia of some/all (?) students lining up in a cafeteria to eat what the govt has decided they should eat.

So obviously, that's a different battle.

I only wanted to put forward a perspective about a government initiative that encourages fruit & veg.

It's only on the internet that these kinds of things can seem or become out of hand. I recognise it and I hope that others do also.

We're all really on the same side, after all.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:02 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Why is the USDA downplaying good news about this Obama-era school nutrition program?
Study reveals higher school-nutrition standards had remarkably positive results for American children.
(WaPo)
Mande said the study was a resounding endorsement of the policies put in place by the former administration.
“As a nutrition and public-health policymaker, what’s extraordinary is for a policy to have that large an effect, to affect tens of millions of school kids. If you consider the crisis that we face — people living shorter, less healthy lives — solutions usually take decades,” he said. “Within two years there’s a dramatic change. This demonstrates the power the USDA has to change the way kids eat. We should be doubling down on this.”

posted by mumimor at 2:43 AM on January 19 [4 favorites]


Let me push back a bit at the idea that the reason the US can't have nice things is that it is a big country. It pops up in many contexts and it always irritates me because there is a logical fallacy in there. In this case: it's not like Washington sends out an army of cooks to provide the actual food. Washington regulates, and perhaps provides some funding, but the planning and execution happens out in the local entities. Just like in Italy. The scale of the actual operations are similar.
India can feed their children, in a country that is much larger and at least as diverse as the USA.
Also, a lot of us here on Metafilter are not neurotypical, and that naturally leads us to have a heightened concern for things like sensory issues, which is good. But it shouldn't determine national food policies, in any nation. For the vast majority of kids from low income families, the priority must be that they get a good meal at least once a day. And then we need to care for kids with special needs, whatever they are, on top of that.
Caring for nutrition across the globe is in my opinion very different from saying all English people are racist, but I may be wrong.
posted by mumimor at 3:06 AM on January 19 [11 favorites]


Also, I hate to be That American but the U.S. is very different from Italy or France in terms of things like population of primary school students (the U.S has nine times as many as Italy, for instance.)

WTF does this mean? Are you suggesting that the US does not also have *checks* ten times the GDP of Italy? "Things can't be done at scale because I say so" is not an argument, it's an excuse.
posted by PMdixon at 4:45 AM on January 19 [6 favorites]


*This little paper from the National School Lunch Program gives a bit of an explanation about money and food and how schools get both.

Essentially, these decisions start at the federal level, then states manage and decide how to work within the NSLP parameters, then local schools make more decisions, and that's really where the rubber hits the road.

THAT'S where strong leaders who just don't give a shit about anything but healthy kids do their thing.

A few years back, I worked in Boston Public Schools, and the free/reduced lunch was a sad sandwich on weird bread, a bag of pretzels, and a bruised piece of fruit. What kid wouldn't love that? Well, none of them, and it's because the school did not have a working kitchen, so the Central Kitchen (may G*d have mercy on their souls) just sent these prepackaged (and let's not even get into the overpackaging) bits of disrespect to the hungriest and neediest kids in Boston.

And it's because the principal was there for a 3-year salary bump before retirement and didn't give one hot damn about fixing the kitchen and feeding these kids well. And then they made teachers work overtime to increase test scores but maybe if she had tried feeding them well...but she didn't because she knew the parental community did not have the time to be actively involved, and she took advantage.

Now let us move to my current school--a K-8 in the Green Mountains of Vermont where we have our own garden and orchard. Kids pick their apples for lunch. They pick the veggies for the salads. On Friday, the middle school kids plan a menu and make one dish--and I gotta say their cauliflower mac and cheese was delicious.

But we get to do this because the principal cares. He gets it. And he's made healthy kids our priority. We have a salad bar and if you want to see the greatest thing, watch 6 year olds carefully select their peppers and carrots and beets and pickled onions (!). as though they're creating masterpieces, which they are. Nobody is forcing these kids to finish their bruised apples.

We have more kids on reduced and free lunches than we did in Boston, and these kids eat better and it costs us less.

So where does the change happen? It happens at the school level. You hire principals who make this a priority. You talk to school districts and find out who's making these decisions and advocate for health.

*which is all a very long winded way of saying that change CAN AND DOES happen at the local level, but we have to show up for the kids and use our voices.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:51 AM on January 19 [14 favorites]


Actually, a “quiet word” between parent and teacher is not often sufficient, as lots of teachers don’t get psychological food sensitivities and attribute an inability to eat, say, tomatoes, to bad parenting. Or think that a kid just has to really try. For one niece, the only solution to that and other issues was to be tutored at home. The teachers at school never quit blaming her mom. It was maddening.

I get that you can’t really base school policies on rare problems and was mostly responding to the blanket statement that absolutely no parents would object to forcing certain types of foods on kids. A child who can’t eat raw tomatoes might be able to eat potatoes dipped in ketchup (which isn’t great but still has the lycopene and some other vitamins, and the potatoes have fiber and vitamins), but that would evidently give lots of people nutrition fits.

But the US system can’t even wrap its head around the idea that many, many children, mostly non-white, are lactose intolerant and should not be told they have to drink milk (which nobody actually needs anyway -hello dairy industry influencing school policy).

(I recently spent five days in the hospital and getting a decent nutritious meal there was nearly impossible - there are just problems with feeding large numbers of people that I don’t understand. The only vegan breakfast option was a fruit and quinoa compote with an insane amount of sugar.)
posted by FencingGal at 5:58 AM on January 19 [11 favorites]


On top of that, how many fats have to be added to potatoes to make kids eat them?

This will vary from child to child (as it will with any foodstuff) but a quick look at the staple diets of most of northern Europe suggests that for a lot of kids, the answer is 'none'. You can just boil or bake them.
posted by Dysk at 6:14 AM on January 19 [9 favorites]


The moderated comment was in response to another moderated comment which you didn't see, along the lines of very atypical people not being able to eat certain foods, as if that disproves the concept of giving kids good food.

See- this is it- I am one of those atypical people, and there are more of us then you realize. We've had whole discussions on making this site more friendly to neurodivergent/disabled people while you were away, maybe you should find the MeTa's and read them. You keep responding with comments about how great Australia is. *that* is off topic! I'm glad your government doesn't tell your children what to eat. Or line them up in cafeterias. And yet, I wonder in your country if that means your poor kids aren't getting a lunch either. In America poverty levels are much higher then in other western countries, and if there aren't government guidelines as to some sort of basic nutrition in public schools the various states with racist/right wing governments (but I repeat myself) governments will make sure it's the bare offensive minimum. We had a wonderful first lady who tried to update those regs and was shat upon for doing so. And now our current nightmare is rolling even that back. Coming into that discussion with I only wanted to put forward a perspective about a government initiative that encourages fruit & veg. In an article about how something like that we had is getting erased? Seems like you're bragging to the defeated.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:28 AM on January 19 [13 favorites]


But we get to do this because the principal cares. He gets it. And he's made healthy kids our priority. We have a salad bar and if you want to see the greatest thing, watch 6 year olds carefully select their peppers and carrots and beets and pickled onions (!). as though they're creating masterpieces, which they are. Nobody is forcing these kids to finish their bruised apples.

We have more kids on reduced and free lunches than we did in Boston, and these kids eat better and it costs us less.

So where does the change happen? It happens at the school level. You hire principals who make this a priority. You talk to school districts and find out who's making these decisions and advocate for health.


So here's the thing, speaking as a Massachusetts teacher. If a principal in an urban school were to let their focus be on food and not on MCAS scores, graduation/promotion rates, suspension rates, and other "accountability data", you can be sure they would be replaced by the school board/committee post haste when those data stopped being finagled and dropped slightly. And if the school board didn't, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would when the school "failed to make adequate yearly progress".

Urban kids are not placed in systems where the adults around them get to care about their well-being first and foremost, so long as states primarily care about "data" that is systematically biased against them. Those in areas where the demographics and socio-political dynamics mean the "data" is better get to focus on actual education and well-being.

Sorry for the rant, but to pretend that those working in urban education aren't suffering under (and yet part of) a racist and classist system that does not view the well-being of urban kids as a priority, from the federal level down, is to miss the forest for the trees.
posted by thegears at 8:55 AM on January 19 [19 favorites]


I wonder if the larger families of previous eras had the effect of discouraging food moralizing to some extent; in a family of four there's a good chance that you're going to have one kid who eats nothing except peanut butter for a year despite being exposed to the same food choices and parenting style as the other three siblings.

(By the way, foods with fat are not unhealthy.)
posted by Ralston McTodd at 9:56 AM on January 19 [6 favorites]


I had more, but instead of listening to me I think anybody who wants to know more about how the U.S. school lunch system works and its history should check out this 2017 long read from HuffPo that uses Jamie "Fat-Shaming" Oliver's (in)famous revamping of the school lunches in Huntington, West Virginia in 2009 as a jumping-off point and follows up with what's been happening in Huntington since.

I remember reading that back in the day, and now I read it again. It confirms everything I have written here in this thread (which makes sense because I was probably informed by it).
- federal regulation and funding is important
- local political intent is important
- local management is important
This is all universal, and works in Huntingdon as well as Palermo.

My friend, our local equivalent of the article's McCoy, struggled with cheffy types too, because our area is filled with Michelin restaurants* whose owners have opinions about school menus. But they inspired and pushed her in a good way. I heard her rant about them, but I saw her getting staff to peel carrots instead of buying frozen rounds.

*I live in a strange neighborhood where my block is simultaneously the poorest in the whole country and the site of an internationally renowned Thai restaurant and a famous Italian eatery with its own dairy, bakery and charcuterie. I have no idea why this all happens here.
posted by mumimor at 10:56 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the larger families of previous eras had the effect of discouraging food moralizing to some extent; in a family of four there's a good chance that you're going to have one kid who eats nothing except peanut butter for a year despite being exposed to the same food choices and parenting style as the other three siblings.

As a child of the 70s, I am laughing so hard at this. Food as moral choice is not precisely new - there's dietary laws like keeping kosher, no meat on Fridays, Lent, Clear Your Plate etc. - but when I was growing up, other than "not feeding your child at all," there was nothing like the moral scrutiny there is now. No one gave a shit if there was a carrot or a celery stick in my lunch, which frequently was a sandwich, corn chips, and chocolate chip cookies. With maybe an apple or a banana.

Lots of kids had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like, every day, because it was easy and cheap (and peanut allergies were not as prevalent/understood.) There was a social hierachy for sure, regulation sandwich was one slice of bologna, one leaf of iceburg lettuce, butter, white bread, no mayonnaise, as Anne Lamott points out in Bird by Bird. "Weird" food was...weird. But moms were not eyeing the Cheeze-Its as if you were poisoning your child with fat, sodium, dye and preservatives. It just wasn't a thing. If your children were fed, you had done your job.

God, feeding kids these days can be hard because it can feel like everyone's judging you...not as harshly as you judge yourself, if after 4 days of your child coming home with "was distracted in class" notes because they won't eat the freaking hummus and veggie wrap or whatever healthy, non-cancer-causing, ethical lunch you sent that they suddenly went off of. This may have happened in the 70s and our teachers whacked us with rulers and sent us to the principal's office but I guarantee that my mother, anyway, as well as the mothers of my friends, never sat down that night to look up The Vegan Lunchbox recipes to fix it. They yelled at us and got on with slapping bologna down.

I'm not nostalgic for those times but I wish to point out that in general "parents" (read: mothers) and "schools" (read: teachers and cafeteria workers) were not expected to solve the problems of the world's food supply and country's leadership and fiscal priorities with each lunchbox.

Now, I do appreciate our family's healthier diet and I also think that with the climate crisis, there is an ethical component to food. I get that childhood obesity is a nutritional problem on a health par with malnutrition to some extent. I'm not agitating for families to go back to those choices but...they weren't really choices that way and no one was counting the salt content.

One thing I appreciate about the packed lunches that I didn't really express well above is that there are no internicine Chocolate v. Plain milk wars or campaigns for or against french fries -- that our family's choice can remain ours, and the kid next to mine with his deep-fried pakoras or the one down the table that only eats square food that is white, plus the perfectly Bento'd all-organic whole foods family can all eat in peace and we don't actually have to decide what the Collective Diet is.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:57 AM on January 19 [23 favorites]


From the article, apropos yes I said yes I will Yes' comment:
Schools need an ambitious leader at the helm, one who understands both nutrition and how to manage complex operations. In the mid-2000s, I visited two schools in the Boston suburbs that were minutes away from each other, but belonged to different districts. In the one run by a motivated dietician, the food was colorful, fresh and reasonably tasty. In the other, administered by a disinterested box-ticker, the food was appalling: stuff like chicken nuggets packed with fillers, gray hamburger patties, bagel dogs.
posted by mumimor at 10:58 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]


If a principal in an urban school were to let their focus be on food and not on MCAS scores, graduation/promotion rates, suspension rates, and other "accountability data", you can be sure they would be replaced by the school board/committee post haste when those data stopped being finagled and dropped slightly.

I'm not saying the focus has to be on food. Principals can focus on student health, which will increase student test scores and lower suspension rates. Healthy kids do better in school.

I think the mistake is assuming student health and student scores are mutually exclusive. Caring about their health--getting them food that will keep them learning--these things WILL affect their scores positively.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:30 AM on January 19 [3 favorites]


And yet, I wonder in your country if that means your poor kids aren't getting a lunch either.

Coincidentally enough, my day job is literally to help poor kids in their education, so there's a lot I could elucidate about that if it wasn't a further derail. It's 1 in 6 kids in poverty here, nothing to brag about & we could definitely learn from having cafeteria lunches.

I accept all your points with a small caveat that I don't appreciate the implication that I'm somehow antipathetic to divergent people, being gifted with bipolar awesomeness myself & having that kind of thing all through my family, but I'll take extra care to look out for any hint of that in future.

Anyway, no dramas from my end. Take care, all.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:09 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Canadian weighing in. My child’s middle school provides no food service, but *does* police the food brought from home.

My autistic child has...um, fairly bizarre and extremely strict food preferences. They cannot be bargained with. They cannot be cajoled. So we send them to school with whatever it is that (this month) is deemed acceptable to their appetite.

One time last year the teacher supervising lunch told him his food was unacceptable, and took it away, leaving him with nothing at all. My partner and I went pretty ballistic over that one, and now we just get fairly snarky “food notes” from the school advising us to find a way to broaden the child’s palette, listing the incorrect choices flagged that day.

At least in high school the food policing ends.
posted by Construction Concern at 3:53 PM on January 19 [11 favorites]


police the food brought from home

I am shocked to read this, and really glad I do not have to live this experience.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:53 PM on January 19 [7 favorites]


One time last year the teacher supervising lunch told him his food was unacceptable, and took it away, leaving him with nothing at all.

What the actual fuck? However "unacceptable" the food is, going hungry is always going to be worse. Even accepting this teacher's bullshit premise, that course of action makes no sense at all. It's just cruel.

That teacher is unacceptable. Take them away.
posted by Dysk at 2:10 AM on January 20 [8 favorites]


We provide school lunches in the US because we do not otherwise provide meaningful food aid to families with children in the US. The US is a shitty place for people who need social services or any sort of support from their government to survive.

My neighboring district's alderman just tweeted out a beg for charitable donations of medical supplies for his area's public schools asking for bandages and first aid supplies. This is in the completely Democratic party run Chicago where this kind of funding shortfall shouldn't be an issue but here we are.
posted by srboisvert at 4:18 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


As a child of the 70s, I am laughing so hard at this. Food as moral choice is not precisely new - there's dietary laws like keeping kosher, no meat on Fridays, Lent, Clear Your Plate etc. - but when I was growing up, other than "not feeding your child at all," there was nothing like the moral scrutiny there is now. No one gave a shit if there was a carrot or a celery stick in my lunch, which frequently was a sandwich, corn chips, and chocolate chip cookies. With maybe an apple or a banana.

And processed food was considered a miracle. Sliced bread was a great innovation. White bread was literally a Wonder Bread. We though we were on the verge of scientific food revolution that would cure hunger and nutrition challenges where we get a couple of pills a day to meet our needs! Parenting was telling your kids that if they wanted to fight they had to go outside.
posted by srboisvert at 4:27 AM on January 20 [6 favorites]


police the food brought from home

I'm in a different part of Canada and this is true for schools here. It seems to depend on the school a lot (some schools are much stricter than others, though they all are in the same school board), and be based on highly questionable nutrition info when it happens.
posted by jeather at 7:03 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]


Even as a kid of the 90s - we had the same debates about overweight kids and exercise, but there was less focus on the quality/macronutrients of the food, almost an assumption that school lunch (which in my school was mostly brought from home) was the time for kids to have some junk (whether you brought a little bag of chips from home or traded your sandwich for a ho-ho that day). There were a few kids with health conscious parents, and you’d know because they would get whole-wheat bread with their bologna and granola instead of gushers. Any kind of sandwich would seem passable healthwise. The second wave of Atkins in the mid-90s was the first time I remember there being “bad”/“good” divisions within basic staples like sandwiches. And those were the years grocery stores started carrying mini packs of baby carrots, so you got tablefuls of kids chewing endlessly and dryly on them like little rabbits and then throwing 75% of the bag away.
posted by sallybrown at 7:29 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying the focus has to be on food. Principals can focus on student health, which will increase student test scores and lower suspension rates. Healthy kids do better in school.

I think the causality may be a little backwards here. School districts that have the funding, stability, and parental buy-in to enact an effective health campaign probably have higher test scores and lower suspension rates, yes. But probably in the same way schools with ev charging stations have higher test scores and lower suspension rates.
posted by FakeFreyja at 10:20 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


Also, I hate to be That American but the U.S. is very different from Italy or France in terms of things like population of primary school students (the U.S has nine times as many as Italy, for instance.)

WTF does this mean? Are you suggesting that the US does not also have *checks* ten times the GDP of Italy? "Things can't be done at scale because I say so" is not an argument, it's an excuse.


What this means, and what I had accidentally edited (too much of) out because I interrupted myself to share the other article and try to _reduce_ my contribution to this derail, is that trying to feed an entire U.S. elementary school in the, for instance, Italian family-style way, would take a lot of the school day. Likewise, kids in U.S. schools are not given enough time at lunch (or living close enough to the school, generally) to go home for lunch, which is very common especially in Southern Italy (I have experienced these family lunchtimes. I think these family lunchtimes are great and that having one's largest meal of the day at midday is an excellent practice. I have also experienced the U.S. public school system). Even back in the 70's and 80's when I was in grade school we had less than an hour for lunch and at least three lunch periods in which students were shuffled in and out of the cafeteria -- today's kids are given even less time to eat (the slow-eating or chatty kids I know often don't finish their packed lunches until the ride home or after school), never mind the multiple courses a traditional Italian lunch consists of. Yes, this could be changed, but it's not something the school dietician and kitchen staff can change through better management of the food budget, etc., which is what the comment(s) I was replying to suggested.

Things don't scale because the U.S. school system overall prioritizes stuff like standardized test scores rather than the physical (mental, emotional) well-being of its students, and because individual cities and towns prioritize schools only when parents of schoolchildren are the ones contributing most to property taxes and complain/are squeaky wheels the "correct" way; i.e., when they're white, upper-middle class, U.S.-born, etc. (Source: growing up working class, white-but-very-"ethnic", child of an English as a 2nd language-speaking immigrant, in a wealthy suburb with "good schools" that my parents happened to buy a house in just before property values shot up as all the corporate types with fancy jobs in NYC moved to town.)
posted by camyram at 5:55 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


As a kid who loved and ate veggies at home, the worst quality produce I've seen was at my high school. Wilted or flavorless was the typical offering.

It would have been great if Trump stepped up the quality by rewarding farmers for sending their best to schools, but.... The hatred of low income people getting anything high-quality from the government is pretty amazing in its thoroughness.

Well-fed broke people can work, pay taxes, go to school, and thrive better overall. School lunch is not why we have a huge deficit and national debt. These are facts no matter how conservative someone is.
posted by Freecola at 6:50 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Things don't scale because the U.S. school system overall prioritizes stuff like standardized test scores rather than the physical (mental, emotional) well-being of its students, and because individual cities and towns prioritize schools only when parents of schoolchildren are the ones contributing most to property taxes and complain/are squeaky wheels the "correct" way; i.e., when they're white, upper-middle class, U.S.-born, etc.

To cut it short: it's the racism. And that is not only a US problem. If more people here knew that the kids who need the subsidized school lunch program the most are overwhelmingly children of immigrants and refugees, it would be equally hard to fund it here. Now they just try to force all schools to serve pork products, even when 3/4 of the kids are Muslim. (In this country, it is not legal to register people on the basis of their race or religion, so there is no hard statistic showing how many poor people are immigrants. There is a lot of on the ground knowledge out in the municipalities, but that is harder to politicize).
posted by mumimor at 7:49 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


As a kid who loved and ate veggies at home, the worst quality produce I've seen was at my high school. Wilted or flavorless was the typical offering.

I'm a vegetarian and let me tell you, super gross produce is an epidemic across a wide range of institutional catering situations.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:00 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


On. Michelle. Obama's. Birthday.
regina_king_why_so_obsessed_with_me.gif

Once again, if vulnerable people weren't the ones utlimately penalized this would be hilariously pathetic. The mental real estate 44 and Michelle take up in Cheeto's brain must be enormous.

I agree that this is unfortunately a drop in the ocean of things wrong with US school lunches. My own memories are too depressing to go into, but suffice to say we were very unhappy campers on the mornings when we hadn't had or taken time to pack our own. To this day I cannot even look at a Red Delicious without wanting to gag.

American public-school kids don't get "French/Italian-style" lunches because 1) "mainstream" American foodways did not evolve such that this would even be something parents would expect and be willing to spend energy bitching about not having, the way parents here can and do; 2) the people driving Ed policy and controlling the purse-strings at best do not give a shit about and at worst are actively antipathetic towards said schoolkids and their families.

Sure, everything is possible if we collectively make the choice to do it, but what's simple isn't always easy. Especially when the nation is being run by a coalition of fashy nihilist ghouls and rejects from a Porky's II casting call.
posted by peakes at 5:39 AM on January 22


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