Last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine food issue dealt with such matters as what kids around the world eat for breakfast, and what happens when second graders are treated to a seven-course, $220 tasting meal.
But it also carried a major investigative piece by political reporter Nicholas Confessore about how the once-bipartisan school lunch program has become a political battleground.
when Michelle Obama started Let’s Move!, her campaign against child obesity, in 2010, the members of the School Nutrition Association were her natural allies…the Obama administration got behind the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, an ambitious bill that would impose strict new nutrition standards on all food sold in public schools. A generation raised on Lunchables and Pizza Hut, the bill’s authors believed, could learn to love whole-wheat pasta and roasted cauliflower…But to pass the bill, the White House needed to enlist not only Democrats and Republicans in Congress but also a host of overlapping and competing interest groups: the manufacturers who supplied food to schools, the nutrition experts who wanted it to be more healthful and the lunch ladies who would have to get children to eat it.
They succeeded with the nutrition experts, but failed to account for the cozy financial relations between the food product makers and the School Nutrition Association (SNA).
As I’ve discussed previously, the SNA, backed by product manufacturers, is now fighting the White House, the USDA, and research evidence that kids will indeed eat healthful food and will be better off for it.
Center for Science in the Public Interest has this to say about what’s happening with school meals.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has a new infographic on how “Healthier School Meals Matter.”
Bettina Siegel, the Houston school lunch blogger at The Lunch Tray, and food consultant Nancy Huehnergarth, in consultation with SNA members, posted an open letter to urge SNA members to oppose the organization’s stance on school nutrition standards.
As Bettina Siegel describes, the SNA promptly sent an e-mailed “urgent message” from its board of directors to all 55,000 members, saying the association was “troubled” to learn about the open letter.
SNA welcomes the diversity of opinions in our association, and we consider all member input when developing or approving SNA positions…Members should be aware that this letter will try to discredit the association and limit SNA’s efforts to advocate on your behalf for any kind of flexibility under the new standards.
This inspired Nancy Huehnergarth to write an op-ed for the Hill.
School food service directors, if you dare publicly disagree with the policy direction of the School Nutrition Association (SNA) you are in for an unpleasant surprise. Your voice will likely be quashed…While SNA members have now been reprimanded and criticized for expressing divergent opinions through a sign-on letter, views held by SNA’s corporate sponsors seem to be welcome with open arms…Something is terribly amiss with the SNA leadership when a reasonable, respectful, member-driven request is quashed without even a discussion, while corporate sponsors are allowed to propose the association’s legislative positions. I strongly urge supportive SNA members to sign on to the open letter and ignore the intimidation tactics. The health of America’s schoolchildren, and the reputation of your organization, depends on it.
And so it does.