School lunchWhere’s my bubble-gum-flavored apple? Photo: dancing chopsticks

Remember back in April, when I bemoaned Obama’s choice of an industry-friendly school-lunch overseer? The job of administering the USDA’s school-lunch program went to Janey Thornton. She had made her name serving in several capacities for the School Nutrition Association–a conglomeration of school cafeteria managers who have never seen a Tyson chicken nugget they didn’t try to serve to a kid.

Now the great new blog School Lunch Talk, co-edited by “renegade lunch lady” Ann Cooper, has delivered an inside look at just what the SNA is all about:

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Imagine if Las Vegas built a Costco-themed hotel with a particular emphasis on chicken nugget samples and then filled the building with lunch ladies. That’s the best way I can describe the School Nutrition Association’s annual food expo, which is taking place right now in Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Every summer, thousands of lunch ladies flock to the show to sample the newest industry products for school lunch. They stroll through over 800 booths, tasting everything from popcorn chicken and mini cheeseburgers, to whole-grain doughnuts and blue-raspberry slushees. Forget flipping through cookbooks – today, this is the menu planning process for your kid’s school cafeteria.

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If you want a bird’s eye view of the problems plaguing school food, this is the place to go. The expo boasted 40 booths showcasing ice cream, cakes, cookies, puddings and other desserts. Over 20 booths peddled poultry (mostly breaded) and 20 more featured beef products. Pizza showed up at 12 booths. Fresh fruits and vegetables showed up at only 10.

My personal favorite from the show was the Crazy Apple. In an attempt to get kids to eat more fruit, this company has developed apples that taste like bubble gum, cotton candy and tropical blast.