Because We Should.

By Ezra Klein

Jill Richardson takes stock of Alice Waters’ op-ed in favor of a new commitment to school lunches. “The cost of providing appropriate food for 30 million school children would be about $5/meal, or about $27 billion/year,” she writes. “That is a significant increase in federal expenditure, but the long-term savings that result would well outweigh the costs. Healthier foods mean less long-term health expenditures.”

I’m skeptical of this logic: Health care costs cluster late in life while school lunches come early. There is, of course, a correlation between poor nutrition in childhood and ill health in adulthood, but it’s probably not the sort of link you break with better school lunches. And so what? Parks don’t save us money, but it’s good that we have them. There are things we should do because they should be done. We’re the richest nation in the world. We can do better than feeding our children inventively presented corn syrup fresh from the microwave.

12 responses to “Because We Should.

  1. Five dollars is a staggeringly high figure for feeding a child in an institutional setting. I mean really — that’s simply nuts. It’s certainly possible to put together healthy meals at this scale for much less than that. It’s hard to take Waters seriously when she’s proposing a program that inefficient.

  2. Pingback: On Alice Waters and School Lunches « relishments.

  3. “It’s hard to take Waters seriously when she’s proposing a program that inefficient.”

    I think it’s because she just has no idea what it costs to run a school lunch program. My kids would be bringing lunch from home rather than pay $5 a day. Right now, my elementary school charges $2.40 per day. A complete lunch includes one entrée, choice of two different vegetables and/or fruits, bread, and choice of milk. Daily milk choices include 1% chocolate, 1% unflavored, or skim, which is extra. My county also publishes the percent of calories from fat for each meal each week, and it’s always less than 30%.

    She needs to spend some time on the front lines.

  4. See, I LOVE this because it brings some very serious questions to the forefront.

    What’s more important, submarines, fighter jets or food? What can we do now, and what can we do if they changed the rules?

    What is important, and how do we define it?

    We’re acting like a stupid, angry, spoiled child and nobody has the courage to say so. There are LOTS of changes that MUST be made, but the Post and Victor Davis Hanson don’t approve.

    Does that honestly make them wrong?

    God help us all

  5. It’s worth reading the actual article here. In a $2.40 school lunch, you’re paying about 30 cents for the food involved: Most of it is labor, etc. It is certainly true that kids can be fed very cheaply, and it may be true that there is somewhere between $2.40 and $5.00 where you’re also feeding kids a healthy lunch and supporting the sorto f local food economies you want to sustain. But given that a McDonald’s meal costs around $5, I’m skeptical. And it’s not clear to me why subsidizing a $5 for kids who can’t afford it is an excessive amount here.

  6. I totally agree with you. We can’t make the “it is cost effective in the long run” argument for everything, but there is no reason to start our kids out on a path towards poor eating habits simply to support the big agricultural outfits that produce all of our corn.

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  8. And this year congress will take up the Child Nutrition Act so this is the year to get something done. The word going around is that they will seek to increase reimbursements for federal lunch and breakfast programs, but the big question is by how much. And the reasoning can’t just be future savings, that never flies politically. But it’s about creating a healthy learner, students who are prepared to learn, succeed and excel.

    http://www.healthyschoolscampaign.org/?CNA

  9. Alice Waters is a twit. She condemns fatty foods for kids, and “Chez Panisse” is nothing but fat (but organic, and French!!!)

  10. Pingback: Chef Ann Cooper : Renegade Lunch Lady » Blog Archive » Tom Philpott & The Grist on School Lunch

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  12. Pingback: The Pretentious is the Enemy of the Good | kashwaynepromotion.com

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