Kerry Trueman: Monday's New York Times had an editorial supporting the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, a bill that would give the U.S. Agriculture Department "new powers to set nutritional standards for any food sold on school grounds, particularly junk foods that contribute to obesity."
The current standards leave a lot to be desired, as the television show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution has revealed. In the first episode, Jamie stood accused of shortchanging the kids on carbohydrates because he omitted bread from a meal that already included rice.
Last Friday, in episode three, Jamie was charged with "insufficient vegetables," despite the fact that his noodle-based main course featured seven different vegetables. The remedy? Add a bunch of french fries to the meal to meet the veggie quota.
How did the USDA's school lunch standards ever get so nutritionally nutty? Would passage of the Act support the wholesome, made-from-scratch meals that Jamie Oliver is trying to bring back to our cafeterias?
Dr. Nestle: You are asking about the history of the USDA's school lunch program? Nothing could be more complicated or arcane. Fortunately, two new books take this on: Susan Levine's School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America's Favorite Welfare Program (Princeton, 2010), and Janet Poppendieck's Free for All: Fixing School Food in America (California, 2010).