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School Lunches

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9-year-old’s lunch blog gets banned by politicians, then unbanned by internet outrage

Remember Martha Payne, the Scottish 9-year-old whose blog documenting her pathetic school lunches shamed local pols into allowing kids unlimited fruits and vegetables? Well, they decided they weren't going to be pushed around by a little girl anymore, and sent word that she was no longer allowed to take photographs of her food.

What they didn't count on was being pushed around by a little girl and her legions of internet fans, including Jamie Oliver. So now the council is photographing its words, then eating them. Martha's blog, Never Seconds, lives on.

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9-year-old’s lunch blog shames school into making changes

Martha Payne had some sad-ass lunches at her school in Scotland -- unsatisfying food that sometimes had more hair than vegetables. So the 9-year-old decided to start a blog with photos and vital statistics about her meals. Almost immediately, the blog got international attention, including from prominent school lunch busybody Jamie Oliver. Result? Martha's dad just met with the local council, and it announced that kids could have unlimited salad, fruit, and bread.

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What’s inside a school lunch burger? 26 ingredients, and only one is meat

What will you see when NPR's Tiny Desk Kitchen takes you inside a school lunch burger patty? Some pretty startling colors -- blue copper gluconate, red cyanocobalamin -- and some 10-dollar names like thiamine mononitrate and pyridoxine hydrochloride.

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High school culinary students eat their own classroom pets

Students in the culinary program at Jasper Place High School in Edmonton, Canada (yes, Canada apparently has culinary programs in high school) probably think farm-to-table restaurants are a pretty cute idea. Oh, you have a farm on your roof? You must be so proud. We have a farm ON OUR ACTUAL TABLE.

The students are raising 100 tilapia, which they'll cook for college credit in the spring.

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32 million reasons to cheer new school lunch rules

Photo by the USDA.

There are 32 million reasons why the United States Department of Agriculture's new school meal standards [PDF] are good news. That's the number of children who participate in the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs in the U.S. and who will soon be served far more nutritious -- and hopefully delicious -- school meals.

Announced by First Lady Michelle Obama, who was instrumental in getting the new rules written by ensuring that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act passed in 2010, the updated meal standards are a huge improvement, in spite of last minute meddling by Congress. The standards are based on 2009 Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations and they include:

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Greasy to gourmet: Seattle chefs help schools trade corn dogs for couscous

Seattle Schools hopes its new menu offerings will make students less skeptical of school lunch. (Photo by USDA.) School lunch in Seattle has come a long way since I was a public school student. In the '90s, lunch was only a dollar, and the cafeteria served up square, rubbery pizza, scoops of mushy spaghetti, and Belgian waffles (everyone's favorite!). Fast-forward more than a decade: Elementary school lunch now costs $2.75, and for several years the Seattle School District has inched toward healthier offerings. For most of public-school history, cafeteria food was something to be endured and then forgotten immediately upon …

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The bad food news of 2011

We continue digesting this year's food politics coverage below -- only this time we take account of the things that didn't go so well. (Tired of bad news? See the year's good food news instead.) 1.  Food prices have gone up, and more people need help feeding their families The fact that 46 million people -- about a seventh of the U.S. population -- now receive food stamps (i.e. help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)) should be enough to tell us that something is wrong with America's food system. But thanks to the way public food assistance is …

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A dollar badly spent: New facts on processed food in school lunches

Photo: USDA I want to draw attention to an eye-opening investigative report on school lunch that has gotten a bit lost in the holiday shuffle. In a collaboration between The New York Times and the Investigative Fund, reporter Lucy Komisar delved into the billion-dollar business of the national school lunch program and found some unsettling news. Komisar looked at two less-examined aspects of the school lunch program. The first is the practice of taking up to $1 billion of "surplus" fruits, vegetables, and meats that the USDA supplies to the program and, rather than cooking them into healthy meals, turning them …

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Sorry Mrs. O, but jumping jacks aren’t enough

At a recent summit on childhood obesity, the first lady announced a shift in her well-known Let's Move campaign -- away from food reform and toward an increased focus on exercise. Instead of "forcing [children] to eat their vegetables," she told her audience, "it's getting them to go out there and have fun." Yes, you heard that right. The first lady actually said that eating vegetables is a chore. And that playing is a preferable focus for her campaign because it's easier. In February 2010, when the first lady announced a campaign to "end childhood obesity within a generation," I …

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Watch Jamie Oliver say something unprintable to McDonald’s on TV

One of the greatest things among the many great things about British accents is how classy they generally make swearing sound. This works best if you're, say, Stephen Fry; it's a little less effective for Jamie Oliver and his mockney pronunciation, but it's still pretty funny to watch him cuss at McDonald's on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Oliver also has things to say about pizza, school lunches, Congress, and the cost of a beastie.

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