Obama’s Chef Doesn’t Like School Lunches

by Flickr user chidorian (Creative Commons license)

by Flickr user chidorian (Creative Commons license)

By Kay Steiger

School lunch has historically been nasty. I stopped eating it at a very young age, preferring to pack my own lunches (my mother worked and didn’t usually have time to pack a sandwich in my purple lunchbox) in elementary school instead of shelling out $1.10 every day for lunch. My understanding is they haven’t changed much from the days of hamburgers and nasty spaghetti (see above) of my youth.

It’s certainly not an accident that school lunches got this way. Obama’s chef Sam Kass from Chicago took the opportunity recently to talk about how subsidies are to blame. “The government subsidizes various agricultural industries, creating overproduction in commodities such as beef, pork and dairy. This overproduction depresses prices, endangering the vitality of producers. The U.S. government purchases the overproduction it has stimulated and then disposes of the excess by giving it to schools,” Kass remarked.

It’s certainly not an accident that school lunches got this way (for more on the history of the school lunch program you should read this review of Susan Levine’s book on the subject). A combination of agriculture subsidies, lax enforcement of nutrition standards, and general lack of funding for the school lunch program leaves schools with some of the lowest quality of food you can find anywhere. Since most of the poorest children are subsidized, we’re ensuring an unhealthy life for them. Its a problem that will only be helped by fixing some of the subsidy problems we have, but it’s also important to address this problem directly as well.


9 responses to “Obama’s Chef Doesn’t Like School Lunches

  1. nasty spaghetti (see above)

    But did you get Japanese milk with it?

  2. You might be interested in “Jamie’s School Dinners,” a documentary about Jamie Oliver’s (successful) effort to overhaul the food in British schools. Very inspiring, lot we could learn from there.

  3. It’s all well and good that Kass is addressing school lunches but I think it would help if he actually worked a cafeteria line to see how kids make food choices. Following Jamie Oliver’s example is an excellent idea but let’s see if Kass could stay within a school’s budget.

    My kids buy lunch; I used to insist on packing them a lunch so I could control what they ate but they prefer to buy their lunches. And there are some days I hear myself asking “Did you eat a vegetable today?”

  4. that is just vomtastic

  5. Ainslie: You’re implying that Oliver didn’t stay within budget. I believe that Oliver was able to do this. Or to be accurate, I think the cost per meal was right about the same, but he had to coax the authorities to spend more on the cafeteria ladies, whose job he made three times as demanding. I believe his plan was adopted by the incumbent administration, so … it is the new budget either way.

    Also, parenthetically, I think that (at least as presented in “Super Size Me”) our problems run so deep that imposing a constraint like the budget is silly, it’s too early for that. If someone can make a meal 1% healthier for a dollar more a tray, even that is progress.

  6. wow… the misinformation regarding the WH chefs is absurd… sam kass worked to change school lunches not only BEFORE he was on staff at the wh, but even BEFORE he was a personal chef for the obama family in chicago. furthermore, he is not THE chef @ the wh ~ he is simply on staff. not only does he serve at the pleasure of mrs. obama, he is under the exec chef, crista. anyone who thinks that these chefs are anything more than domestic servants, albeit very well-paid ones, are not only misguided, but also very misinformed. the wh chefs ~ just like the wh secretaries, phone operators, cleaning crew, etc ~ have NO CONTROL over public policy. moreover, they have a strict gag order applied as evidenced in all of sam kass’ interweb trails being deleted or disabled. same goes for crista comerford. for more accurate reporting on this issue ~ keeping in mind that even the new york times got it wrong, so no offense to the IFA ~ go to http://obamafoodorama.blogspot.com.

  7. Pingback: Getting Schooled on K-12 Lunches « The Internet Food Association

  8. Pingback: What do they feed our kids? - SoWal Beaches Forum

  9. Pingback: Getting Schooled on K-12 Lunches | kashwaynepromotion.com

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