Saving Our School Lunches

By Ratha Tep Posted February 20, 2009

Alice Waters and Katrina Heron—president and board member, respectively, of the Chez Panisse Foundation in Berkeley, California—cowrote a brilliant op-ed in today's New York Times arguing for a critical look at our government's National School Lunch Program. A primer: The program provides low-cost or free meals to public-school children through cash subsidies to schools, as well as through shipments of commodity foods like high-fat, low-grade meats and cheeses and processed foods like chicken nuggets and pizza. Waters and Heron write that now more than ever, in this new era of government bailouts and concern over wasteful government spending, is the time to redesign the program to make public-school lunches healthier—prepared with unprocessed foods grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and if possible, from local farmers. The overhaul would come at a price: In 2007, the program cost around $9 billion a year; Waters and Heron's proposal would come out to at least $27 billion. But if the steep increase of people who now rely on food banks for groceries across the country—up 30 percent since 2008—is any indication of how many new kids now depend on free school lunches, making them as healthy and nutritious as possible should be a government priority.

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