Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Meatless Mondays - one less type of inedible crap in City Schools

Eliza Barclay writes for The Atlantic Magazine website's Food Channel about the recent decision by Baltimore City Public Schools to go meatless on Mondays. That's right - 80,000 schoolchildren in Baltimore City Public Schools will only be eating dried-out hamburgers, little hot dog-shaped pillars of salt or "chicken" "nuggets" Tuesday through Friday. Instead, they get to eat messy meatless pizza, dry and spongy mozzarella dippers and gummy gooey eggplant parmesan. Absolutely yummzh!

It's not the lunch ladies or the principals to blame for all the crap in school cafeterias: if you're given crap, you have to do what you can with it, but it's still crap. I myself don't think it's such a bad idea, though I don't know how effective it'll be. I mean, meat isn't the only problem in the American diet, despite what some will have you believe. But it's not helping, and cutting down a little on something fried or dried isn't going to hurt. For what it's worth, I don't think it's a bad idea.

Believe it or not, the controversy is not so much about "forcing an alternative lifestyle" - vegetarianism - on America's schoolchildren (I'm surprised nobody's complained about that yet). The meat companies that deliver meat products to the school system are the ones complaining. I don't know if they're suffering all that much during this recession, since one of the few things we Americans are loathe to give up is our meat. God knows I love meat! But the meat industry is going about complaining all wrong. They say Baltimore City schools are short-changing students of important nutrients, such as proteins - which, by the way, they get in an inedible format (I've eaten school food recently. Yuck). They still get these proteins in bean and cheese format - again, inedibly. Who says vegetarian food has to be edible?

Instead, they should be upfront about the real reason they're complaining: their bottom line. Who honestly thinks that the "American Meat Institute, ...the Animal Agriculture Alliance, the Missouri Beef Council, and the editors of Pork Magazine" (H/T to Ms. Barclay) are concerned about kids' health? Anyone with at least half a brain cell knows they are concerned about their bottom line. Perhaps that's part of Baltimore City schools' motivation, too: to save a little money on meat?

Also just an observation: why is a Midwestern beef council concerned about what we're feeding kids in the Chesapeake Bay region?

Wait - there's a Pork Magazine?