Friday, July 31, 2009

Pass the Milk Cooler and Grab your Dino Chicken Nuggets

A fascinating and frightening post on the School Food Policy blog today. Here are some of the highlights:

"Thanks to a provision known as commodity processing, cafeterias can divert their government-donated foods to commercial processors and receive table-ready items instead of raw products. Today, schools divert about half of their commodities to processors.

According to the USDA, the goal of commodity processing was twofold: it was supposed to allow schools to maximize the use of commodities, while also opening up the school market for the food industry. By those standards, it has been an amazing success. Schools now turn commodity meat, flour, cheese and fruit into a wide variety of (unhealthy) foods kids love. And companies rake in the money from turning raw chicken into nuggets, strips and breaded patties. Today, over 150 companies — from Tyson to Jennie-O Turkey — process commodity items for school cafeterias.

...The USDA’s list of the most frequently processed commodity items includes pork (sausage patties and links, pizza topping), beef (charbroiled patties, crumbles, meat balls), chicken (nuggets, patties, breaded chicken), turkey (turkey ham, bologna, deli slices), frozen fruit (popsicles and turnovers) and flour, mozzarella and tomato paste (pizza)."

Yum, yum. While I understand that it would be very, very expensive for a school to use those funds to buy commodities such as flour, eggs, yeast, tomato paste, raw chicken, etc. and then cook meals for thousands of kids from scratch, there has to be a better way. I wonder if some of there are vendors out there who produce less-processed, more natural foods. Maybe turn the fruit into a fruit cup instead of a popsicle or pastry? Maybe the chicken doesn't have to ground down, injected with a host of preservatives, shaped into dinosaurs, breaded and fried? Anyone?

Here's the link to the article:

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