US school lunch programs — obesity and hunger


According to Michael O’Donnell in “Unhappy Meals: How school lunch programs manage to promote obesity and hunger at the same time.

In many schools, nonpaying children stand in separate lines from their classmates, and in some California schools they are the only students who eat inside in the cafeteria rather than outside in the pay-as-you-go food court, because the trays cannot be taken out of doors. Poppendieck is justifiably outraged by this insensitivity, which segregates children by income and leads some to skip meals so as to avoid cruel jibes from their wealthier friends.


Poppendieck too quickly writes off more practicable (and less expensive) solutions like swipe cards, which would disguise whether and how much each child pays.


As in other contexts—most notably the regulation of animal welfare in farms and slaughterhouses, which is the USDA’s charge—the agency is completely captured by industry interests and therefore incapable of enacting meaningful regulations. The USDA’s provisions restricting the sale of “foods of minimal nutritional value” in schools, for instance, define that term so loosely that a candy bar containing peanuts exceeds the threshold, escaping regulation.


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