That's awful. I encourage you to write to Mr. Burrows, who isn't worried and should be, and your local newspaper and also to encourage other parents to write. Let those meat-choosing folks know they are being watched.I responded to this with a note of caution:
School lunch programs really don't have a lot of choice when it comes to[...]commodity items; they have to feed kids for a very low cost per lunch, and, if they use their USDA-provided meat, cheese, flour, potatoes, then they can use their funds for things like fruits and vegetables. Until we change a lot of other aspects of federal policy, school districts will be limited in their ability to respond to parent demands[...]This evening I attended a public meeting intended to increase community involvement in our nascent district Farm-to-School program. The talk revolved around fruits and vegetables; bread, flour, and milk are already sourced locally, along with some other odds-and-ends. During the Q & A, I asked the panel (almost all of whose members I knew from smaller meetings), the following question: "Given current policy limitations and budgetary limitations, how impossible is it to think about meat sourcing?" As the representative from the school food service began to laugh and look a little sheepish, I added: "especially given the article that appeared recently in the paper, which maybe you've been hearing from some people about..."
The panel members said more or less what I'd anticipated (USDA commodities, local meat costs 3X as much, shortage of local processors to deliver the cuts we need, the food service rep provided some hard numbers); I'd just wanted to register the issue and didn't expect surprises.
However, I got one. Bob Burrows, the food services supervisor quoted in the Bozeman Chronicle article linked in yesterday's post, turned out to be present in the audience. He stood up and made an extended comment in response, and though he agreed with the current budgetary assessment, he also expressed a great deal of concern (not manifest in the Chronicle version) about the fact that Montana schools, surrounded as they are by local cattle ranches, are serving mostly beef from the midwest and Texas. For Burrows, the driving force of his frustration was a desire to support the local and regional economy; anxiety about food safety was secondary, he said. But he professed to have been distressed by this particular problem for twenty years, and extremely interested in pursuing policy changes to address it.
He sounded surprisingly impassioned, and I believed him. Even the people within the system, they want to change the system. They're not enemies, but natural allies. If a wide spectrum of interests can gather to keep pushing together on state and federal policy, I think by the 2013(?) Farm Bill we can dream some bigger dreams.