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    Half-sour cucumbers, hold the salt

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    Copyright 2008-2015Slow Food Fast. All writing and images on this blog unless otherwise attributed or set in quotes are the sole property of Slow Food Fast. Please contact DebbieN via the comments form for permissions before reprinting or reproducing any of the material on this blog.

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School lunch vs. Congress: Ketchup all over again

The House and Senate’s reconciled spending bill–surprise, surprise–now strips out the new USDA rules on school lunches. You know, the new rules to lower sodium, limit potatoes as in french fries, and debunk the idea that the smear of tomato paste on a commercial frozen pizza slice sold to the school through a fast food concession contract somehow counts as a vegetable. Those rules.

The spending bill is due for a final vote later this week and you won’t be surprised at all to find that the “no new lunch” provisions come primarily from the hands of a number of Republicans in both houses. Worse, one of their chief arguments is that because vegetables other than potatoes, corn and other starches are expensive, the schools shouldn’t have to comply.

But who made–and keeps making, take a look at the other parts of the spending bill–greens so much more expensive to grow than wheat, corn, soy, potatoes…the big heavily-subsidized commodity crops? You got it.

The shamelessness is everywhere though. While trying to verify the details of the bill in the Washington Post article, I looked up “House Budget Committee” (which isn’t exactly it; the official spending bills for the House come from the Appropriations Committee, but I wasn’t thinking official terminology first thing before coffee this morning).

I was disgusted to find an official House committee page apparently dedicated to singing the outsized praises of one party’s platform rather than to presenting actual public business–bill texts and status, committee assignments and mandate–conducted by and representing the work of all the members of the committee, whatever their party affiliations.

The Budget Committee’s chair, Paul Ryan, has commissioned a web site so grossly propagandist and silly it should be a public embarrassment. Go visit it. Am I wrong? Or does almost every single item on the front page mention Paul Ryan prominently in tones that suggest he led the Battle of the Bulge or launched NASA or some equally visionary achievement?

Given his performance in the GOP debates and the many polls that show his true popularity among voters, I shudder to think how much he had to spend out of the committee budget to get someone to put up such a flattering page.

If the House wants budget cuts, maybe this is where the supercommittee (and is that ever an overrating) should start. And then they should get back to work and put some actual food on the tables in public schools. $6.8 billion to improve school lunches and the federal breakfast program for low-income students is a pittance. It’s not enough to do everything students need, but it would do a lot if it weren’t wasted battling the processed food lobbyists over salt, potatoes, pizza, tomato paste and ketchup.

As it is, the food lobbies are likely to win this round in the legislature, or so the newspapers predict.

What power is left? Your purse. Your vote. Your phone calls to your senators and congressional representatives.

Likewise your ability not to pay for garbage. Boycott frozen pizza. Boycott french fries. Boycott soda. Stop buying this stuff for home and tell your kids why. These shameful food substitutes are a lot more expensive than they look. Pack your kids a real lunch–it could be leftovers or a sandwich, but pack something with protein, a little whole-grain starch, and actual vegetables. Maybe a fruit. Keep it cheap and whole–apples/oranges, not passionfruit.

I would also like to see students whose families can afford it to chip in by bringing a bag of apples to school, or a bag of carrot sticks, or a can of tuna, or a pound of cheese or a loaf of bread. Not every day, but every week or month. I have the idea that if all of that donated food went into a kitty for the low-income students, they might eat better than the way they do now.

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