I’m hanging out with pink slime over at the Digging Deep Campaign this week – and am thankful that I just bought 100 lbs of beef from my favorite local farmer (which was from a cow that I had met personally).
I briefly note there that, although the uproar over pink slime is fantastic to see – it’s amazing to me how much people don’t know about the industrial food supply, and when they do start to learn, they are disgusted enough to do something about it – you can’t just call it a day when the USDA caves a little and gives school districts the choice of not buying ground beef with pink slime (The Lunch Tray explains why). Because the main reason the USDA buys pink slime for school lunches is because it’s cheap. And if school districts (cash-strapped already, at least in this state) still have to operate under the same reimbursement standards for the school lunches, we’ll see something else cheap sneak its way into the school lunch program.
I don’t usually quote myself, but in this case, I think it’s important to reiterate what I said earlier in the week at Digging Deep:
Here’s why – reimbursement rates. How much money do schools get reimbursed per child for the food in school lunches? Not much. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) lists the current year maximum reimbursement rates as $2.79 for free lunches, $2.39 for reduced price lunches, and $0.28 for a lunch fully paid for by the child. Can you cook on an industrial scale for less than three bucks a meal? I sure can’t. And don’t forget the much-touted change in rules to the National School Lunch Program, thanks to Michelle Obama. Don’t get me wrong, doubling the amount of fruits and vegetables children are served in school is fantastic, and way overdue. But until the Farm Bill stops overwhelmingly subsidizing grains and starts leveling the playing field for fruit and veg, they’ll be more expensive. Which means the other food in each school lunch needs to be less expensive. Enter pink slime.
Yep, it all goes back to the Farm Bill. Which, as it happens, is up for reauthorization this year (because, thankfully, the Secret Farm Bill crap didn’t work last year). So work to make your voices heard – catch up on the particulars with the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Bill Policy Plate series, and consider the Community Food Security Coalition’s talking points when you contact your elected officials. Because you know the food-industrial complex is whispering in their ears. The least you can do – especially for the kids dependent on the school lunch program for their nutritional needs – is to do the same.