In earlier posts discussing the School Nutrition Association’s push to roll back healthier school meal standards, I’ve noted that the organization receives significant funding from corporate “patrons” such as ConAgra, Kraft and PepsiCo.
Yesterday the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) AgMag Blog offered a much closer look at those corporate ties, as well as the role of SNA’s lobbyists which, in addition to representing SNA, boast a roster of Big Food clients that includes General Mills, Kraft Foods, the North American Meat Association, the National Confectioners Association and the National Frozen Pizza Institute (whose members include Con Agra and Schwan.)
This interlocking relationship isn’t surprising, given how the food industry would clearly benefit from a roll-back of healthier meal standards. If SNA is successful, Big Food will not incur the considerable expense of reformulating products to further increase whole grain content and lower sodium, all while pleasing kids’ notoriously picky palates. Perhaps even more importantly, popular “carnival foods” like pizza and french fries will continue to be allowed in school snack bars on a daily basis, instead of appearing only on the same day on which those same items appeared on the lunch line. Pizza is a big seller in most cafeteria a la carte lines, and we’ve already seen how ConAgra and Schwan (major suppliers of frozen school pizza) decisively crushed an earlier attempt to limit pizza in cafeterias (i.e., the infamous “pizza = vegetable” debacle in 2011.)
It’s important to note, however, (as I did here), that even if SNA’s legislative agenda is driven by the food industry, SNA’s members’ concerns, such as increased food waste and cost, may still be legitimate. And absent its financial dependence upon the food industry, I’d like to believe SNA would be taking a different approach to solving those problems, such as seeking more funding for healthier food, improved kitchen facilities, logistical support and nutrition education for kids.
Unfortunately, though, as the AgMag post and other reports make clear, that ship has already sailed. Instead of carrying out its stated mission — “advancing the quality of school meal programs through education and advocacy” — SNA has chosen to align itself with Big Food. That’s a win-win for the food industry and for school food directors solely focused on their financial bottom line.
The only losers are the kids.
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