Sarah Brodsky
The Columbia Daily Tribune examines school lunches in this interesting article. Like many districts, Columbia Public Schools is trying to serve healthier lunches. And the locavore philosophy is in fashion, so the district wouldn't mind jumping on the local food bandwagon, either.

But the district is learning that buying local is easier said than done:
One hurdle is finding the local produce to feed 10,000 or more children per day. The demand for local produce continues to grow, but local suppliers are too few for large institutions such as schools, Fullum learned.

Too many farmers in “Missouri are growing hay, wheat and soybeans. We don’t use that in our kitchens. We need spinach. Farmers have to change that. Our farmers are just now getting the idea that maybe our schools and our university are potential customers and maybe we should do more specialized farming,” she said.

It looks like the district is allowing the locavore philosophy to distract it from its goal of serving healthy food. Local produce is not the only alternative to canned or processed food. For example, fresh oranges are nutritious, and they don't have any added salt, sugar, or preservatives. But they're shipped in from warmer climates, so locavores overlook them.

The district should seek out healthy products to serve at lunch, regardless of where they come from. Restricting itself to food grown in Missouri could limit kids' diets, besides burdening taxpayers. (Even if it gets a grant from the Department of Agriculture, the money had to come from taxpayers at some point.) And it's unrealistic to expect demand from schools to change Missouri's agricultural output, which is at least partially determined by factors like climate and soil quality that are outside of Columbia Public Schools' control.

If some parents care about where the food comes from as much as how healthy it is, that's their choice. They can buy food at a farmers' market themselves — and send it to school with their kids in a lunch bag.

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Sarah Brodsky

Sarah Brodsky