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instagram-Worthy School Lunches Will Soon Disappear

February 10, 2020

An op ed article in today’s NYTimes made me sad. Written by Jennifer Gaddis, an expert on school lunch policy, it featured four beautiful school lunches from this year with the caption reading: “Lunch options for students at Guerrero Thompson Elementary School in Austin, Texas. As i began reading the article, which was a plea for parents to buy school lunch for their children in the name of nutrition, I was astonished to think that an expert on school lunch policy missed the news of a few weeks ago regarding the change in Federal nutrition standards. But near the end of the article, my faith in Ms. Gaddis’ expertise was restored:

The Trump administration isn’t much help (in encouraging parents to buy lunches for nutritional purposes). According to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, providing schools with the flexibility to plan menus that appeal to students’ taste preferences is a way to attract more paying customers to the federal program and reduce food waste. Mr. Purdue has pursued this strategy for making school lunch “great again.”

In practice, this has meant enacting policies that loosen restrictions on the amount of sodium, flavored milk and refined grains that can be served in school meals. The department’s own data shows that participation in the national lunch program is higher in cafeterias that serve healthier meals, yet the administration’s latest proposal, released last month, would allow schools to serve more french fries and fewer green vegetables.

And why is this rollback happening if lunch participation figures are on the increase? Because the GOP believes the marketplace should determine what foods should be available to children, not “the government”. Left to their own devices, children will naturally choose fatty, sweet, and salty foods over ones that are nutritious— and presumably the ledgers on the revenue side of the school lunch budgets will increase. Those instagram-worthy school lunches pictured in the article? They will vanish in September 2020 to be replaced by the burgers and fries. MAGA in this case means Make America Greasy Again….

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