Chicken Again?

Among the casualties of last week’s Scrooge McDuck–swimming-pool-size meat recall—143 million pounds of ground beef, the largest recall in U.S. history—has been the National School Lunch Program (NSLP): A significant portion of the recalled beef went to cafeterias under the commodities program, in which the USDA buys cheap industrial ag leftovers and donates them to schools.

The back-alley details of the NSLP are not well-known, and if there’s any upside to the recall, it might be that our cut-rate system for feeding schoolchildren is getting more attention. And even people who know the system are newly worried: As a spokesman for the Long Beach Unified District, the second-largest school district in California, says, “We do rely upon the USDA much like consumers do when they go to the supermarket, so it is disconcerting that this could occur.” He’s quoted in a smart story in the Los Angeles Times, which also says that half the food served in the Los Angeles Unified School District comes straight from the USDA.

A spokeswoman with the American Meat Institute somewhat remarkably calls “patently false” the idea that ground beef sold in schools was inferior or unsafe—why would anyone get that idea?—before she attacks a school lunch straw man: all those folks who think America’s children should eat steak at school. “We feed a lot of children, so I don’t expect my children to eat filet mignon during lunch, and they’d rather have a hamburger anyway,” she said.

In other news, revise your calendars: In Petoskey, Michigan, the recall has caused the cancellation of the Spanish class spaghetti fund-raiser.