When You Say Dylan, He Thinks You're Talking about Dylan Thomas

March 20, 2011

Thought for the day: Not all government interference is bad. Even Glenn Beck would approve of some legislation winding its way through the Michigan Legislature. S.B. 1074 would require school districts to use a lowest-cost method for deciding how to deliver food services. H.B. 4306 further reinforces this thought by encouraging outsourcing for school kitchen employees. That is, if some external provider like U.S. Foodservice or Sodexo can feed your kids for less money than having cafeteria managers source fruits and vegetables from Michigan farmers, administrators would be required by state law to take the cheaper course.

Thank God that our legislators are looking out for our kids’ interests with this brilliant proposal! Us Fox News fearing mid-westerners are wise to scam that them West Coast intellectual pinheads like Alice Waters are trying to foist on unsuspecting school principals, telling them that kids need to eat nutritious meals in order to learn effectively, or teaching them that food comes from establishments that lack golden arches, much less someplace as dirty, filthy and generally yucky as a FARM. We know what farms are for. Farms are sort of like social repositories for lame yokels who are so unhip that they haven’t even bought their first i-Pad. We send them dumptruck loads of tax dollars to keep them from descending on Starbucks in some futile search for personal enlightenment. And that’s government money that’s well spent, as well.

Waters is on the cover of the LSJ insert USA Weekend magazine this Sunday encouraging us to grow our own food. Ha! As if apples grew on trees, rather than being made in Chinese sweatshops! Actually the picture on the front of USA Weekend magazine looks suspiciously like a head of lettuce, but we’re wise to that dodge, too. Waters is the celebrity chef who started “the edible schoolyard” project at an Oakland elementary school. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m following the Twitter feeds of as many celebrity chefs as anybody. But Waters’ agenda goes way beyond the honest and honorable pursuit of packing Chez Panisse every night. She’s pushing the bogus pinko line that there is a connection between food, learning and civic education.  We know that school is mainly about butts in seats, writing beaucoups of term papers about Jane Austin and learning how to use a slide rule.

Which brings me back to S.B. 1074 and H.B. 4306. These liberal fellow travelers who think that our kids might learn something by spending time in a school garden or by meeting the farmers who “grew” the food for their school lunch need to be stopped. S.B. 1074 is a brilliant scheme for doing this by promoting the idea that “farm to school” programs are just a form of welfare for small-scale local farmers, as well as the public employees who staff the kitchen. The subversive idea that how you eat could be substantively tied to any legitimate educational objective has been thoroughly driven from the field. The sacrilegious secularism running rampant among nutrition advocates is dead, and we can thank our ever vigilant legislators for stamping out any thought that how a school is managed could have anything to do with sustainability, or that sustainability could have anything to do with education.

Now in fairness, (damn that fairness thing), I have to caution that there are some things in this blog that may not be strictly true, so readers might want to do some of their own research before writing that angry letter. Like for example whether S.B. 1074 or H.B. 4306 actually have any chance of passing, and that I actually admire some of the things that Sodexo is doing. But that’s for another time and place. Let’s enjoy a righteous rant, a simple desultory philippic against the lettuce heads.

I been Phil Spectored, resurrected.
I been Lou Adlered, Barry Sadlered.
Well, I paid all the dues I want to pay.
And I learned the truth from Lenny Bruce,
And all my wealth won’t buy me health,
So I smoke a pint of tea a day.

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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