Deus Ex Machina was telling me the other day that he read an article stating that Congress was contemplating a bill to ban all potato products from school lunches. The concern is that our school children are obese and that the culprit is potatoes.
The Senators from the few potato growing States (including Maine), of course, took umbrage with this proposal and fought against it (I think Deus Ex Machina said they won and the Bill was overturned).
I don't think potatoes are the culprit in our country's health problems, and in fact, at least where I come from, potatoes have been a dietary staple for hundreds of years. While there have been some recent attempts to vilify the lowly potato, there's a lot more evidence to suggest grains, like corn (see The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan), or an overuse of wheat-based products (see any discussion on gluten sensitivity), are actually much worse, and much more culpable in the growing obesity epidemic that is sweeping our country.
This Bill is just one more example of the federal government overstepping its bounds. It's a mistake, and we, our farmers, our schools, and our children will suffer if laws like this are permitted to go through.
In fact, we should be looking the whole school lunch program, and if we think it was some effort to make sure kids are eating nutritious meals, I think we're grossly mistaken (does anyone remember the attempts to label ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches?). It was, and is, and will always be, about money.
It has its origins in a program that wasn't, necessarily, about feeding kids, but rather the program was established as a way to prop up food prices by absorbing farm surpluses. In essence, the food served to school children since the National School Lunch Act was passed back in the 1940s is the extra stuff that farmers couldn't sell to the general public, and so to keep farmers in business, the federal government bought the food and served it to our children. It's not good enough for the grocery stores, but plenty good enough to feed our kids ... and our soldiers, because it's the same food they serve in the mess halls.
I like to think that the federal government wanted to start controlling the potato growers and the potato growers told them to stick a hot one up [edited for family friendly content] ... ;), and so in retaliation, some [edited for family friendly content] in Washington decided to pass a bill that would prevent that one crop from being served in school lunchrooms.
I don't know that that's how it happened, but what I do know is that I'm a potato eater. I like potatoes. They're easy to grow. They're incredibly versatile. They store well.
And they're actually pretty good for us - high in Vitamin C, with Vitamin A, calcium and iron, and contain protein and dietary fiber. Compare that to wheat. Worse, wheat requires a good deal more energy to process to make it edible for humans, and it requires a good deal more land to grow an equivalent amount.
If I had to choose between wheat and potatoes, I'll take my potato - thank you very much.
In fact, for lunch today at the Wyvern Academy (our "exclusive, all-girls -home- school"), we had potatoes in a show of support to the potato growers of Maine. There is at least one *school* where the lunch program isn't dictated by government surplus.
And my girls relished every bite.