The recrudescence of 'nasty, rotty' school lunches in California

So what's the verdict on Michelle Obama's "nasty, rotty" school lunch program, supposedly loaded with green vegetables that somehow went onto the trays gray? We already know the kids couldn't stand it. Remember this?

President Trump has decided to at least partially scrap it.

According to The Hill:

Under the new rules, schools would be allowed to reduce the number of fruits and vegetables required at each meal. The latest change follows a 2019 rollback of restrictions on milk and sodium content in school lunches.

Critics said the change will pave the way for greasier, more unhealthy foods such as pizza, french fries and burgers.

Feel the hysteria.

The media is tut-tutting the move, but the Department of Agriculture has decided to allow local school districts to make their own decisions about what local kids can eat, ending the rigid rules that led to the "nasty, rotty" food debacle that was so bad kids rebelled by setting up black markets for "Flamin' Hot Cheeto Fries," discarding the supposedly healthier food into the trash. I know at least one enterprising kid in Lake Elsinore, Calif., who did just that. The Trump administration explicitly noted the problem of food waste and it all makes sense.

Gavin Newsom, however, has his own idea: More Of It, as if the big-scale veggie scheme had never been tried before:

In an effort to provide California students with healthier, more sustainable food options, Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a proposal of $70 million for fresher, more nutritious school meals in his 2020-21 preliminary budget Friday morning.

The funding, if approved, would provide a 40% increase to local school food-service programs across the state and aims to serve freshly prepared and local-grown food. The proposal also aims to push for more sustainability initiatives.

“This would be something really wonderful,” said Robert Lewis, CEO of SCV School Food Services Agency. “We have a tough time staying within budget because the cost of food is always going up, especially when you’re trying to give students fresh food — so any release would be a great help.”

More money at an already failed idea is a red flag.

Three things are going on here, and Newsom is only addressing one of them. 

First, the issue of what kids eat when their parents aren't around to to give them the stinkeye is often different from what they might eat when no one's looking. Kids love bland foods like pizza, burgers and spaghetti. Anything else and quite a few won't eat it, nothing plagues kid's world more than the parental command to "eat your peas." Back when I was six, I pretty much wouldn't eat anything but burgers and spaghetti, and my only mealtime preoccupation at that age was to find ways to dispose of the rest of the food without anyone noticing. It's what kids do. Years ago, the great Berkeley chef Alice Waters, who introduced the world to California cuisine (and I am sure she knows Newsom, the pair of them went into the Bay Area restaurant biz at the same time) set up a fresh-meal program for Berkeley kids, and even she couldn't make it work, the little rotters still threw the gourmet food in the trash. As Thomas Lifson asked here:

If the proprietor of the restaurant named by Gourmet Magazine as the best in the world cannot induce the urchins to eat properly, what makes Michelle Obama think that the lunch ladies can pull it off? 
 

Second, putting out ultra-fresh green vegetable cuisine takes lots and lots of money. Presumably Newsom's plan addresses this element. Part of the reason why Michelle Obama's food tastes so bad is that so little money was spent on the actual food. Most of the money for school lunches went into overhead as Thomas Lifson wrote in another piece, leaving very little to spend for fresh veggies -- so stale ones would have to do.

Back in 2004, he noted:

Please don't refer to Berkeley's food service workers as cooks. They are 'stationary engineers,' members of Local 39 of the union of the same name. As a result, labor eats up a huge portion of the costs of providing meals. The city receives $2.32 from the federal government for each student entitled to a free school lunch. However, once the workers get their cut and the city covers its overhead, there remains only 17 cents for milk, 15 cents for fruit and 15 cents for vegetables.

Supposedly, Newsom's plan is to heighten the amount spent on the actual food so more of it can be fresh. Fresh always costs more, often a lot more.

There's a reason the cuisine at Alice Waters' famous Chez Panisse has menu prices like these, after all. Her food is very, very fresh. Waters supplies her own elegant restaurant from small-scale suppliers with rarified crops and chefs with unusual talents.  After scrapping her fresh-food school meal program (smart to do since it was her own money), she went into a partnership with a lefty NGO called EcoLiteracy, which supplied the money for her new program, called Edible Schoolyard, which is what she does now. 

Yet even her second program with the NGO had limits: It was confined to one classroom only, it was effectively a working lab where kids involved could eat their experiments, and on her website, it's clear she knows why:

Does the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley garden provide the school lunch for the whole school?

We wish it could! However, with over one thousand students at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, our one-acre garden is predominantly an outdoor classroom, not a production farm. The harvest from the garden classroom – which is planted, cultivated, and harvested by the students – is used in the kitchen classroom during cooking lessons. All kitchen scraps then return to the garden in our compost pile to continue the cycle!

Production. Big meal plans, big production. No wonder it could only be confined to a classroom with a handful of kids.

Megan McArdle, in her brilliant book "The Up Side Of Down" wrote about what was typically going on with sprawling supply chains that are part and parcel of school lunch programs. Here are two small excerpts from Google Books, but read the whole thing starting at the bottom of page 75 here:...

Newsom's idea is to throw more money at it, then, presumably to enable fresher foods to be purchased. Sometimes that works. But not $70 million on a school-age population of 6.1 million. That's slightly more than ten bucks per kid for the whole year assuming no overhead. Instead of 20 day-old lettuce, they'll maybe be able to get 19 day-old lettuce and only on some days on that money.

Here's the third reason the fresh-lunch programs fail, which Newsom ignores:

Turns out he was overpaying contractors, taking kickbacks, and billing it all to the taxpayer.  One of those contractors, by the way, was Tysons Food, a Fortune 100 company that just incidentally was involved in the teaching of Hillary Clinton, back in her Arkansas days, to become an ace commodity cattle futures trader.  Those guys.

It probably should have been a red flag that kids, who cannot be fooled, sounded the first alarm about how bad the food was, compared to the copious praise that came down from the White House on that same plan.  Michelle Obama praised Binkle for his newly reformed school lunch program, which nominally imposed his rarefied chef tastes of quinoa, pad thai, black bean burgers, and other chi-chi nouvelle cuisine as a substitute for tacos, burgers, and corn dogs favored by children across the vast multi-ethnic school district.  In reality, they were overcharging, overbilling, and under-delivering, with the food turning out to be basically slop.  It probably didn't help that it was public employee unions executing the mess.  Of course the food turned out to be inedible and detested.

More money, more hands in the till, more corruption. And the Michelle Obama school lunch program has since been found to be absolutely rife with corruption.

Here's the kicker: Who's the NGO group Newsom is partnering with?

None other than EcoLiteracy, according to the report, the same group Waters partnered with after she scrapped her first program, and the same program that she was unable to translate on a six-figure grant into full food production for 1,000 kids. A look at their website signals that they are less about food than global warming propaganda, so it kind of figures.

Here's their Wikipedia:

Located in Berkeley, California, the Center for Ecoliteracy's stated mission is to support and advance education for sustainable living.[1] It was founded in 1995 by philanthropist Peter Buckley, physicist/author Fritjof Capra, and think tank director Zenobia Barlow to apply ecological, systems thinking principles to K-12 education.[2]

The Center for Ecoliteracy has supported projects in habitat restoration, school gardens and cooking classes, partnerships between farms and schools, school food transformation, and curricular innovation.[3] Together with the Chez Panisse Foundation and Berkeley Unified School District, the Center for Ecoliteracy implemented the School Lunch Initiative to provide local, seasonal, and sustainable meals for students as well as experiential learning in gardens, kitchen classrooms, and cafeterias.[4] Using a systems approach, the Rethinking School Lunch program offers a planning strategy for revamping food service programs.[5]

The Center for Ecoliteracy’s initiative, Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability, aims to provide a framework based on four guiding principles: “Nature is Our Teacher,” “Sustainability is a Community Practice,” “The Real World is the Optimal Learning Environment,” and “Sustainable Living is Rooted in a Deep Knowledge of Place.”[6] It identifies four potential pathways to schooling for sustainability—food, campus, community, and teaching and learning.[7]

In August 2011, the Center for Ecoliteracy released Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools, a downloadable cookbook and professional development guide for school food service professionals. It introduces the concept of the 6-5-4 School Lunch Matrix, "based on six dishes students know and love, five ethnic flavor profiles, and four seasons."[8] Cooking with California Food is part of the Center's statewide initiative, Rethinking School Lunch: California Food for California Kids, which aims to add more fresh, local, and healthy foods to school meals.[9]

In collaboration with bestselling author Daniel Goleman, the Center for Ecoliteracy published Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence in fall 2012. The book profiles educators, activists, and students who embody this integration of intelligences as they address food, water, and energy issues around the world. It also includes a professional development guide and five practices of "engaged ecoliteracy": developing empathy for all forms of life, embracing sustainability as a community practice, making the invisible visible, anticipating unintended consequences, and understanding how nature sustains life.[10]

 Take our propaganda, then you can eat. Nothing said about the kids who don't want to take the propaganda. Not sure if they get to eat. You can see where this could go...

Yet if they couldn't make a program work on a production scale even with Waters's talents with a six-figure grant for a mere one school, how exactly are they going to scale this to a state with 6.1 million schoolchildren?

The signs are all there that this will just be another money pit and nobody's meal is going to get fresher.

Doesn't matter with this crowd though. As President Trump moves get the federal government out of the school meal business altogether, Newsom is just fatting the pocketbooks of bureaucrats in the name of virtue-signaling and global warming propaganda.

Guess which idea is actually going to feed kids?

Image credit: Twitter screen shot

 

 

 

So what's the verdict on Michelle Obama's "nasty, rotty" school lunch program, supposedly loaded with green vegetables that somehow went onto the trays gray? We already know the kids couldn't stand it. Remember this?

President Trump has decided to at least partially scrap it.

According to The Hill:

Under the new rules, schools would be allowed to reduce the number of fruits and vegetables required at each meal. The latest change follows a 2019 rollback of restrictions on milk and sodium content in school lunches.

Critics said the change will pave the way for greasier, more unhealthy foods such as pizza, french fries and burgers.

Feel the hysteria.

The media is tut-tutting the move, but the Department of Agriculture has decided to allow local school districts to make their own decisions about what local kids can eat, ending the rigid rules that led to the "nasty, rotty" food debacle that was so bad kids rebelled by setting up black markets for "Flamin' Hot Cheeto Fries," discarding the supposedly healthier food into the trash. I know at least one enterprising kid in Lake Elsinore, Calif., who did just that. The Trump administration explicitly noted the problem of food waste and it all makes sense.

Gavin Newsom, however, has his own idea: More Of It, as if the big-scale veggie scheme had never been tried before:

In an effort to provide California students with healthier, more sustainable food options, Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a proposal of $70 million for fresher, more nutritious school meals in his 2020-21 preliminary budget Friday morning.

The funding, if approved, would provide a 40% increase to local school food-service programs across the state and aims to serve freshly prepared and local-grown food. The proposal also aims to push for more sustainability initiatives.

“This would be something really wonderful,” said Robert Lewis, CEO of SCV School Food Services Agency. “We have a tough time staying within budget because the cost of food is always going up, especially when you’re trying to give students fresh food — so any release would be a great help.”

More money at an already failed idea is a red flag.

Three things are going on here, and Newsom is only addressing one of them. 

First, the issue of what kids eat when their parents aren't around to to give them the stinkeye is often different from what they might eat when no one's looking. Kids love bland foods like pizza, burgers and spaghetti. Anything else and quite a few won't eat it, nothing plagues kid's world more than the parental command to "eat your peas." Back when I was six, I pretty much wouldn't eat anything but burgers and spaghetti, and my only mealtime preoccupation at that age was to find ways to dispose of the rest of the food without anyone noticing. It's what kids do. Years ago, the great Berkeley chef Alice Waters, who introduced the world to California cuisine (and I am sure she knows Newsom, the pair of them went into the Bay Area restaurant biz at the same time) set up a fresh-meal program for Berkeley kids, and even she couldn't make it work, the little rotters still threw the gourmet food in the trash. As Thomas Lifson asked here:

If the proprietor of the restaurant named by Gourmet Magazine as the best in the world cannot induce the urchins to eat properly, what makes Michelle Obama think that the lunch ladies can pull it off? 
 

Second, putting out ultra-fresh green vegetable cuisine takes lots and lots of money. Presumably Newsom's plan addresses this element. Part of the reason why Michelle Obama's food tastes so bad is that so little money was spent on the actual food. Most of the money for school lunches went into overhead as Thomas Lifson wrote in another piece, leaving very little to spend for fresh veggies -- so stale ones would have to do.

Back in 2004, he noted:

Please don't refer to Berkeley's food service workers as cooks. They are 'stationary engineers,' members of Local 39 of the union of the same name. As a result, labor eats up a huge portion of the costs of providing meals. The city receives $2.32 from the federal government for each student entitled to a free school lunch. However, once the workers get their cut and the city covers its overhead, there remains only 17 cents for milk, 15 cents for fruit and 15 cents for vegetables.

Supposedly, Newsom's plan is to heighten the amount spent on the actual food so more of it can be fresh. Fresh always costs more, often a lot more.

There's a reason the cuisine at Alice Waters' famous Chez Panisse has menu prices like these, after all. Her food is very, very fresh. Waters supplies her own elegant restaurant from small-scale suppliers with rarified crops and chefs with unusual talents.  After scrapping her fresh-food school meal program (smart to do since it was her own money), she went into a partnership with a lefty NGO called EcoLiteracy, which supplied the money for her new program, called Edible Schoolyard, which is what she does now. 

Yet even her second program with the NGO had limits: It was confined to one classroom only, it was effectively a working lab where kids involved could eat their experiments, and on her website, it's clear she knows why:

Does the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley garden provide the school lunch for the whole school?

We wish it could! However, with over one thousand students at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, our one-acre garden is predominantly an outdoor classroom, not a production farm. The harvest from the garden classroom – which is planted, cultivated, and harvested by the students – is used in the kitchen classroom during cooking lessons. All kitchen scraps then return to the garden in our compost pile to continue the cycle!

Production. Big meal plans, big production. No wonder it could only be confined to a classroom with a handful of kids.

Megan McArdle, in her brilliant book "The Up Side Of Down" wrote about what was typically going on with sprawling supply chains that are part and parcel of school lunch programs. Here are two small excerpts from Google Books, but read the whole thing starting at the bottom of page 75 here:...

Newsom's idea is to throw more money at it, then, presumably to enable fresher foods to be purchased. Sometimes that works. But not $70 million on a school-age population of 6.1 million. That's slightly more than ten bucks per kid for the whole year assuming no overhead. Instead of 20 day-old lettuce, they'll maybe be able to get 19 day-old lettuce and only on some days on that money.

Here's the third reason the fresh-lunch programs fail, which Newsom ignores:

Turns out he was overpaying contractors, taking kickbacks, and billing it all to the taxpayer.  One of those contractors, by the way, was Tysons Food, a Fortune 100 company that just incidentally was involved in the teaching of Hillary Clinton, back in her Arkansas days, to become an ace commodity cattle futures trader.  Those guys.

It probably should have been a red flag that kids, who cannot be fooled, sounded the first alarm about how bad the food was, compared to the copious praise that came down from the White House on that same plan.  Michelle Obama praised Binkle for his newly reformed school lunch program, which nominally imposed his rarefied chef tastes of quinoa, pad thai, black bean burgers, and other chi-chi nouvelle cuisine as a substitute for tacos, burgers, and corn dogs favored by children across the vast multi-ethnic school district.  In reality, they were overcharging, overbilling, and under-delivering, with the food turning out to be basically slop.  It probably didn't help that it was public employee unions executing the mess.  Of course the food turned out to be inedible and detested.

More money, more hands in the till, more corruption. And the Michelle Obama school lunch program has since been found to be absolutely rife with corruption.

Here's the kicker: Who's the NGO group Newsom is partnering with?

None other than EcoLiteracy, according to the report, the same group Waters partnered with after she scrapped her first program, and the same program that she was unable to translate on a six-figure grant into full food production for 1,000 kids. A look at their website signals that they are less about food than global warming propaganda, so it kind of figures.

Here's their Wikipedia:

Located in Berkeley, California, the Center for Ecoliteracy's stated mission is to support and advance education for sustainable living.[1] It was founded in 1995 by philanthropist Peter Buckley, physicist/author Fritjof Capra, and think tank director Zenobia Barlow to apply ecological, systems thinking principles to K-12 education.[2]

The Center for Ecoliteracy has supported projects in habitat restoration, school gardens and cooking classes, partnerships between farms and schools, school food transformation, and curricular innovation.[3] Together with the Chez Panisse Foundation and Berkeley Unified School District, the Center for Ecoliteracy implemented the School Lunch Initiative to provide local, seasonal, and sustainable meals for students as well as experiential learning in gardens, kitchen classrooms, and cafeterias.[4] Using a systems approach, the Rethinking School Lunch program offers a planning strategy for revamping food service programs.[5]

The Center for Ecoliteracy’s initiative, Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability, aims to provide a framework based on four guiding principles: “Nature is Our Teacher,” “Sustainability is a Community Practice,” “The Real World is the Optimal Learning Environment,” and “Sustainable Living is Rooted in a Deep Knowledge of Place.”[6] It identifies four potential pathways to schooling for sustainability—food, campus, community, and teaching and learning.[7]

In August 2011, the Center for Ecoliteracy released Cooking with California Food in K-12 Schools, a downloadable cookbook and professional development guide for school food service professionals. It introduces the concept of the 6-5-4 School Lunch Matrix, "based on six dishes students know and love, five ethnic flavor profiles, and four seasons."[8] Cooking with California Food is part of the Center's statewide initiative, Rethinking School Lunch: California Food for California Kids, which aims to add more fresh, local, and healthy foods to school meals.[9]

In collaboration with bestselling author Daniel Goleman, the Center for Ecoliteracy published Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence in fall 2012. The book profiles educators, activists, and students who embody this integration of intelligences as they address food, water, and energy issues around the world. It also includes a professional development guide and five practices of "engaged ecoliteracy": developing empathy for all forms of life, embracing sustainability as a community practice, making the invisible visible, anticipating unintended consequences, and understanding how nature sustains life.[10]

 Take our propaganda, then you can eat. Nothing said about the kids who don't want to take the propaganda. Not sure if they get to eat. You can see where this could go...

Yet if they couldn't make a program work on a production scale even with Waters's talents with a six-figure grant for a mere one school, how exactly are they going to scale this to a state with 6.1 million schoolchildren?

The signs are all there that this will just be another money pit and nobody's meal is going to get fresher.

Doesn't matter with this crowd though. As President Trump moves get the federal government out of the school meal business altogether, Newsom is just fatting the pocketbooks of bureaucrats in the name of virtue-signaling and global warming propaganda.

Guess which idea is actually going to feed kids?

Image credit: Twitter screen shot