Saturday, February 21, 2009

The food lobby goes to school

The Food Lobby Goes to School, a video created by The American News Project, gives some insight into the process of deciding standards for the National School Lunch Program. While some may think that the people deciding policy are Registered Dietitians, health professionals, school lunch workers and policy advocates, the fact of the matter is, like with most policy, lobbyists warm the seats. These are the same big names that grace the expo hall at the national and state American Dietetic Association meetings.

To a large degree, it is the Federal Government. Congress and the Department of Agriculture approve what foods can (and can't) be served to over 30 million American school children who get daily meals from the National School Lunch Program. The government gets a ton of pressure from a food and beverage industry frantic to keep kids hooked on a diet of sodas, snacks and hot dogs. The competition for a piece of this $10 billion market is particularly fierce right now because this year the School Lunch Program is being reviewed and revised.

Despite the enormous nutritional and financial stakes at play, ANP was the only media to cover a recent panel set up to discuss the school menu. While nutritionists outnumbered the press, corporate lobbyists outnumbered everyone.

This op-ed in the New York Times by Alice Waters and Katrina Heron, No Lunch Left Behind further discusses the issues and hurdles.

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