Lately I have been so puzzled by the whole "school lunch" thing. Why wouldn't a school want to feed kids healthy fresh food? I have assumed it was about the almighty dollar, but the info I learned from the Slow Cook blog made me mad as hell. Yes, you heard it right.
This blog explains the 10%-15% (or even 50%!) rebates that food service providers receive from the big food companies because they buy food in huge quantities. The companies that run food services in many public schools are then supposed to pass those rebates right onto the schools. So school "Learn A Lot" hires "Serve a Lot" to run their food service. Because "Serve a Lot" is serving hundreds of students in each of hundreds of schools, they receive these rebates, making food service cheap. Schools are always needing to save money, right? So this looks like a winner of a program to them. (And for the record, I'm totally in favor of schools having more money to put toward learning.)
There are some problems, however. One problem is that the food service companies don't return the rebates to the schools in a timely manner. The bigger problem is that the whole unsavory business is shrouded in secrecy, probably because the companies realize that we would be mad as hell if we knew. The bigger problem leads to an even bigger one: We are not talking about produce companies selling lettuce here. We are talking about Apple Jax and fatty muffins.
If this weren't bad enough, the really insidious nastiness is this: Big food companies have spent millions of dollars and years of research learning what makes food irresistible. Rest assured, these companies are not accidentally providing tantalizing foods to school kids. They are very certainly doing it on purpose. If they can hook 'em when they're young, they'll have customers for life.
It reminds me of when the tobacco companies provided cigarettes free to soldiers stationed abroad in World War II. The government distributed them, for heaven's sake. And those soldiers came home hooked.
I know someone will accuse me of being overly dramatic. But is it really that different? Cigarettes kill, there is no doubt. And guess what? Obesity does too. The diseases that are expected to cost our country enormous amounts of money in the next few years are greatly impacted or exacerbated by obesity. Yep, it's sickening.
Until we as citizens -- whether or not we have kids eating school lunch -- start to wake ourselves up and decide to put a stop to this craziness, things are going to get worse. I predict they are going to get a lot worse.