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Food fight! (in California)

The belligerents are lining up for the battle of fish-stick hill. Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) is recruiting foot soldiers for a fight over the nation’s school lunches, one that could completely remake one of the US Department of Agriculture’s highest profile initiatives.

According to Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle, Miller would significantly boost spending on school lunch programs, enabling more students to qualify, while providing districts with more money so they can provide healthier food and source from local farms.

According to critics, the primary goal of today’s school lunch programs is dumping highly processed agricultural surpluses, often grown with massive federal subsidies, rather than providing healthy meals.

To aid the fight, Miller recruited Charles Phan, owner of a celebrated upscale Vietnamese eatery on San Francisco’s waterfront. Phan doesn’t necessarily blame school districts:

with about $2 to spend on a meal, bound by regulations and offered such farm surpluses as “canned cheese” at huge discounts, schools “can’t do it, so they just start serving really bad food.”

The approach appears to be gaining some bipartisan traction, with Rep. Tom Platts, a Pennsylvania Republican, calling the $800 million annual initiative a cost-effective way to fight childhood obesity.

It also makes sense to Linton Hopkins, owner of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta.

Good school food comes down to “very simple truths,” Hopkins said. “It says ‘made with real lemon’ on our furniture polish, but then on our ‘lemon drink,’ it’s 10 percent juice. How about we just have lemonade?”

With good sense about to collide with a long entrenched and lucrative business, this will be one food fight worth keeping an eye on.

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