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Time to reinvest in the school-lunch program

At private schools across the country, good cafeteria food is becoming as de rigueur as French classes taught by native speakers, Associated Press reports. Schoolyard vegetable gardens bloom, tended by future Ivy Leaguers under the watch of "sustainability coordinators." In the kitchen, trained cooks transform that bounty into food worthy of enjoying, not merely enduring. Unfortunately, in public schools, things remain rather grim. Debt, warmed over. Photo: whitehouse.gov Sure, there are wonderful groundswells of change, such as Ann Cooper's transformation of lunches in the Berkeley public-school system, helped along by a grant from the Chez Panisse Foundation. But these exceptions …

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Live green, go yellow

U.S. conservation land may soon end up in your gas tank

Well isn't this delightful (sub rqd): The Agriculture Department may allow farmers to plow up land in conservation agreements to plant row crops, despite a record corn crop this year, fueled by the ethanol industry's thirst for the feedstock. Acting Secretary Chuck Conner told reporters this week that USDA is considering releasing some land currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to idle nearly 34 million acres of land for wildlife habitat or soil or water conservation. Corn ethanol: always even more awesome than you think!

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The road to disodium inosinate is paved with good intentions

Mea culpa. That's the only way I can honestly write anything about getting older kids to eat healthy foods. Because I've been a sucker for the look my 11-year-old gets on her face if I plop down a bowl of nuclear-orange SpongeBob mac-and-cheese in front of her. Sheer joy: that's the only way to describe it. Ditto for the times she eats (can I admit this?) Cookie Crisp cereal, high-fructose corn syrup laced yogurt, and the occasional bag of Doritos -- chips that look toxic enough to qualify as their own Superfund sites. Open mouth, insert junk food. Photo: iStockphoto …

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Smokin' greens

The eco-depredations of the tobacco industry

Brad Plumer points to what is no doubt going to be a fascinating story on the environmental evils of the tobacco industry. Clicking the link reveals that the story itself won't be available until Oct. 1, but using his prodigious powers of precognition, Brad excerpts this bit: Without even factoring in the paper wrapping, packaging, and print advertisements--which require as much paper by weight as the tobacco being grown--nearly 600 million trees are felled each year to provide the fuel necessary for drying out the tobacco. That means one in eight trees cut down each year worldwide is being destroyed …

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EPA may soon approve toxic alternative to ozone-depleting pesticide, despite criticism

To replace the toxic, ozone-depleting pesticide methyl bromide -- a favorite of stubborn U.S. berry growers -- the U.S. EPA is reportedly set to soon approve an alternative that doesn't deplete ozone but is "one of the more toxic chemicals used in manufacturing" according to opponents, including six Nobel Prize-winning chemists. Even though the replacement pesticide, methyl iodide, is injected into soils and not applied directly to crops, health advocates, including 54 scientists and physicians who wrote a letter to EPA head Stephen Johnson about their concerns, worry about "pregnant women and the unborn fetus, children, the elderly, farmworkers, and …

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Suffer the little children -- from carbon offsets?

A clean tech firm accuses a carbon credit nonprofit of forcing kids to do fieldwork

You might blame a leading carbon-offset provider of forcing poor kids to work, according to The Times of London. Or not. Carbon credit firm Climate Care pays families in India to use human-powered treadle pumps to get water out of the ground for drinking and farming. As a result, half a million foot pumps have replaced diesel ones, which pollute and cost a lot to fuel. Unfortunately, Climate Care doesn't ensure the diesel pumps are retired instead of finding new life with other owners. Nor does it stick around to make sure that kids aren't doing all the pumping. It …

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Time to find that special turkey

Thanksgiving isn’t just about the food; it is about relationships

The Thanksgiving holiday serves to focus our attention on man's relationship with nature. In a celebration of the fall harvest, we express our appreciation for the bounty we have received. In American tradition, the Pilgrims' survival in the New World was enabled by the Native Americans, with whom they joined in a great feast of thanks. Every year Americans set aside a day to hold their own feast of Thanksgiving which features traditional foods that are native to the Americas, such as, turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, turnips, and pumpkin pie. Our celebration of Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity …

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ADM's man at the USDA

USDA secretary resigns; industrial-corn man takes charge

Big doings at the USDA yesterday: Mike Johanns, the reliably pro-agribiz former governor of Nebraska, resigned from his post as USDA chair -- right in the middle of Farm Bill negotiations, now in the Senate. He says he's going to run for the Senate seat that Chuck Hagel is vacating. Chuck Conner, currently the USDA's no. 2 man, will be the agency's acting secretary. Conner joined the Bush administration in 2001 as the president's "special assistant" on ag issues, and joined the USDA in 2005. Before working for Bush, Conner spent four years as executive director of the Corn Refiners …

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There’s no lead-free lunch

Have you heard the one about the "healthy lunch" campaign that used lunchboxes found to contain lead? No joke.

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Edible Media: The revolutionary hedonist

A good NYT piece on Alice Waters

Edible Media takes an occasional look at interesting or deplorable food journalism. Alice Waters is so beloved and renowned in the sustainable-food world that her status approaches that of a saint. Inevitably, all that reverence gives rise to a certain amount of irreverence. I don't think anyone's gone after her with the vitriol that Christopher Hitchens once unleashed on Mother Theresa ("the bitch of Calcutta," etc.) But no one as pure of heart and pantry as Our Lady of the Mesclun can get by without a bit of ribbing. I even engaged in some once. Then, every once in a …

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