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Congress wants to count pizza as a vegetable in school lunches

Parents! You needn't worry about what public schools are feeding your kids, because the USDA is reforming school lunch standards and cutting out things like potatoes and salty foods and … oh wait, that was true. But now Congress has gotten involved. And that means that the government is on track to declare pizza a vegetable. Let's put aside for a second the fact that the soggy, cheesy abomination that's served in cafeterias across the country should barely be called pizza to begin with, much less lumped in with healthy lunch options. Seriously, it’s like a sponge with cheese. But …

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Food Studies: Talking about race in school gardens

Food Studies features the voices of volunteer student bloggers from a variety of different food- and agriculture-related programs at universities around the world. You can explore the full series here. A sign at the Edible Schoolyard"This is some slavery shit." It was a sunny August morning, and we were hoeing, loosening up the dirt in an empty bed so that we could plant lettuce seedlings. I was volunteering in a summer school garden class at a high school in St. Paul, and we were nearing the end of the session. I was helping one student wrestle with some weeds, when …

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Don't worry, Stephen Colbert, your school lunch potatoes are safe

The risk that potatoes might be restricted in school lunches sent Stephen Colbert into a twitching, shouting anxiety spiral. But all is well, Stephen -- your tater tots will remain unmolested! The Senate voted down a measure that would have limited starchy vegetables to one cup per student per week. ("Starchy vegetables" includes corn. Just saying.) Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado did point out that the problem isn't potatoes, or corn or peas or lima beans (also starchy vegetables) -- it's the fact that schools prepare all of those by deep-frying them and/or adding butter. Which means the reprieve on …

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The unmasking of a school lunch hero: Mrs. Q speaks

Sarah Wu, aka Mrs. Q.Photo: Jill BrazelSome of you may already know of Mrs. Q, the teacher who blogged anonymously about her adventures eating lunch in the cafeteria of the public school where she worked every day in 2010. Her daily posts included pictures of each day's meal (pizza, chicken nuggets, pasta with meat sauce, etc.) and brief descriptions of how they tasted and made her feel. This simple formula gained Mrs. Q a huge following of teachers, parents, students, and citizens interested in changing the food system (improving school lunch, many reformers say, could be a step toward combating …

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New Agtivists: FoodCorps foot soldiers

This fall, the first 50 FoodCorps service members fanned out to take their posts in locations across the nation. The program -- which places young leaders in limited-resource communities for a year to deliver nutrition education, build and tend school gardens, and work on bringing local food into public school cafeterias -- is up against formidable odds. In the past 30 years the percentage of overweight children has tripled and one in four young adults are not healthy enough to be eligible for military service. These statistics are only a portion of a larger more complicated picture, one where children …

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The triumph of Jamie Oliver's 'nemesis'

Jamie Oliver in West Virginia last yearPhoto: Jedd FlowersCross-posted from Gilt Taste. It was all I could do not to scarf the entire stromboli, neatly packaged for me in a Styrofoam clamshell, while in the car. The dough was soft. The balance of ham and mozzarella, just right. And so, only about half was left when I parked on Third Avenue, the main drag in Huntington, W.Va., and offered a bite to some friends. "Wow. That's great," said one. "Yeah, where'd you get that?" asked another. "You'll never believe it," I told them. "This is school lunch." Times have changed …

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New made-from-scratch school lunches trick kids into eating healthy

Schools in Greeley, Colo. are forgoing the frozen pizzas and assorted horse parts in favor of meals made from scratch with fresh ingredients. That's obviously better for students, who get better nutrients and fewer additives, but children are not historically great at doing things that are good for them. How do you sell kids on freshly cooked food when they're clamoring for junk? Greeley's new chef has some tricks up his sleeve: Take macaroni and cheese, for example. It will still be a staple on the new menu and will still have that bright, strange yellow color that children have …

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First-graders and Big Ag agree: More chocolate milk!

Milk: It does a body sort-of good.Photo: a little tuneD.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown says he's in possession of "research" conducted by a first-grade pupil that convinces him schools in the nation's capital should bring back chocolate milk. Brown made the remarks in an animated exchange last week with Kaya Henderson during hearings to consider her confirmation as schools chancellor. Brown said he was impressed by the nutritional information on flavored milk the first-grader had amassed, but more likely, Brown was tagged by the long arm of the dairy industry, which relentlessly pursues efforts to keep flavored milk in schools to offset decades of decline …

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USDA rejects GOP demand to undo new school meal guidelines

What's the price of healthier school food?Photo: Ed BruskeThe Slow Cook has learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will not back away from proposed guidelines for more expensive school food despite demands from Republican lawmakers that the agency eliminate any requirements that would increase the cost of the federally subsidized school meals program. The GOP-controlled House Appropriations Committee recently attached language to a funding measure for agriculture programs directing the USDA to rewrite the proposed school meal guidelines so that they do not create any additional costs. The USDA has estimated that the proposed guidelines as currently written [PDF], …

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Down with healthy school lunches, says House GOP

  You want me to eat what?Having already moved to gut USDA programs promoting agricultural conservation and renewable energy and strip the USDA of its authority to enact the first meaningful reform of the irredeemably monopolistic livestock industry, House Republicans have now turned their attention to that other great threat to American freedom: USDA nutrition guidelines. According to the Associated Press, Republican appropriators in the House of Representatives (the lawmakers who control the government's purse) are on the verge of defunding significant parts of school-lunch reform and elements of Michelle Obama's Let's Move! program, as well as the recently announced voluntary Federal …