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Hearing on School Lunch in the House, Part 1

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Jul 01, 2010 at 18:17:38 PM PDT

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Today the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on school lunch and child nutrition. The big news for me from the first half of the hearing is that Rep. Kucinich has an absolutely BRILLIANT idea to pay for healthy school lunch and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) is an idiot.

Below is my write-up of the first half of this hearing. I'll soon post a diary on the second half.

Jill Richardson :: Hearing on School Lunch in the House, Part 1
Opening Statements
Chairman Miller began the hearing with an opening statement. He spoke of the paradox of the duel problems of hunger and obesity. He mentioned the clear connection between healthy food and the ability for children to focus and learn so they can grow into healthy, successful adults. He noted that school lunch should not just feed kids healthier meals but should also serve as a form of education to help kids develop healthy habits that last a lifetime. And he noted that the U.S. has used the schools as a vehicle to advance public health in the past with campaigns for seatbelts and against smoking.

School lunch is a chance to "dramatically drive down" future health care costs, he said. Then he brought up school gardens and their usefulness for teaching various subjects like biology, zoology, and art as well as providing the kids with fresh food and educating them and their parents about where food comes from. He called for more school gardens across the country, and said we should accept nothing but the best quality food in cafeterias.

All in all, I support every single word he said. The problem is that his bill needs more money if it's going to get us to the goals he outlined. The bill will get us much of the way there, but sadly, it would take tens of billions of dollars to really do the job right. That kind of money is thrown around as if it were pennies when it comes to illegal wars of choice like Iraq, but it never seems to be available when we're talking about the health and well-being of our kids.

In his statement Miller outlined four goals of his bill. First, streamlining and increasing access to food for children in low income families. Second, improving the safety of school food and making sure recalled food is removed from cafeterias. Third, increasing the reimbursement rate for the first time in 30 years. Last, making sure that hungry kids get food when school is out - during weekends, vacations, and summer - because hunger doesn't take a vacation.

As he pointed out this bill is supported by a broad coalition of teachers, parents, health organizations, the anti-hunger lobby, and Michelle Obama. He ended by saying: "The nation's greatest treasure is at risk." The hearing today was intended to show "what is really at stake and why this bill is so critical."

Next up was the Ranking Member, John Kline (R-MN). He was also supportive of the goals of the bill but said, "What has given us pause, however, is the almost $8 billion price tag attached to this bill." In other words, you can count on him and the Republicans to try to drive down the amount spent in this bill.

Panel 1: Testimony
Next, Vilsack testified. He was the only witness on the first "panel." He said that school lunches have to much fat, sugar, and sodium, and not enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy. Notice how he said kids should eat less of a list of nutrients but they need to eat more of specific foods? That's classic USDA. He then said that he's thrilled the bill will allow the USDA to regulate competitive foods (a la carte items and food sold in vending machines). Of course instead of using the dreaded "R" word ("Regulate") he repeatedly spoke about "consistency" between the school lunch program and competitive foods. He didn't overtly say it but in the past the USDA has had very limited access to regulate competitive foods and this bill is about to change that.

Vilsack made a few more points I found important. He is eager to improve equipment and training for cafeterias as well as the safety of school lunch food. And he wants to "reconnect youngsters with food supply so there's a better understanding of what farmers and ranchers contribute to us every day." He noted four reasons why this bill is so important (in fact, he said it was his #1 priority):

1. The research is clear that hungry & unhealthy kids have a hard time learning.

2. Health care costs: Kids with health problems related to diet carry that into adulthood with rising costs associated with heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

3. National security: A substantial percentage of military age young adults are currently too overweight to serve.

4. It's a moral issue. The richest country shouldn't have hungry kids. A country is only as strong as its youth.

He ended with a call to the committee to pass this bill quickly. He noted that many important issues that Congress tackles are difficult and confusing, but this is one issue that every single Mom and Dad in America understands clearly.

The first exchange was one between Miller and Vilsack and, despite my familiarity with this issue, the entire exchange made no sense at all to me. I can try to follow up and then update this diary if I get the information on what was meant by the question and answer.

Miller then asked about farm to school programs and what the USDA was doing. Vilsack didn't miss a beat. He brought up the USDA's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" program and its 15 tactical teams that are working with 15 school districts to help them work out the details of sourcing local foods. Some of the problems are educational - helping schools learn what is available in their area and when - but some is related to infrastructure. Often you need to have warehouses, slaughterhouses, cold storage, etc, to make the program work. Here the USDA is using its rural development money to make that happen.

Next came Ranking Member Kline. He's hearing from the Minnesota farm bureau that they don't want the additional school lunch money to come out of the USDA's conservation budget (which is what the Senate bill does).

Vilsack said that while he wants to preserve his conservation budget as much as he can,

the bottom line is that there's nothing more important than doing child nutrition this year so if we need to find room in the USDA budget to pay for it we will...

The IOM study was a wake up call for me... suggesting that we are NOT doing right by our kids.

He and Kline continued their exchange. Kline wants to nail down where the money is coming from before the bill leaves the committee. Vilsack does NOT want to do that because he's afraid he'll offer up money and then it will be taken away from him to pay for something else. He told Kline to pass the bill and then he'd find a way to pay for it.

Joe Courtney of Connecticut was next. I had the pleasure of visiting several dairy farms in his district last year and it seems that he's got those dairy farms in mind when he thinks about school lunch. He wanted to talk about kids drinking more soda and less milk today than they did 20 years ago. Also, as a member of the armed services committee, he's very concerned that young people are too fat to serve.

Vilsack replied that it's "important to distinguish between every day foods and sometimes foods." Milk is an every day food, he said. The USDA is asking for ability to regulate competitive foods to keep the "sometimes" foods out of the lunch line. If families want soda for kids as treat, no problem, said Vilsack, but on a day to day regular basis, kids need to get adequate supplies of wholesome food.

Courtney brought up farm to school, saying that dairy is a way to do that. He's got a bill called the Healthy Milk & Dairy Choices Act.

Castle (R-DE) came next. He went to a school with supposedly good nutrition standards in their lunch program and saw kids buying a la carte junk in the lunch line. He didn't seem to know that the USDA was actually forbidden from regulating that under current law, so he asked Vilsack what, if anything, the USDA was doing about junk sold in schools.

Vilsack replied, repeating that he wants the ability to regulate competitive foods, but also noted the importance of equipment grants for schools as well as education for kids and parents and training for lunch staff. If you want to serve healthy food but you've got fryers instead of equipment to steam vegetables, that's a challenge that increasing nutrition standards can't fix.

Castle repeated his question, asking who has oversight over nutrition in schools. Vilsack replied that USDA's Food and Nutrition Service has that job but with 100,000 school districts, it's difficult. Here's a great line by Vilsack:

Candidly, I think food, for many [schools], was a revenue source, and we need to change that mind set

Next up came David Loebsack (D-IA). He mentioned growing up poor and noted that he was the one who put direct certification into the child nutrition bill. He spoke about the concern about paying for this bill and said that it was born out of short term thinking of politicians, but we need to think long term. He said, "This is an investment we can make in the short term so we can actually save, I think, in the long term" by preventing the devlepment of chronic disease.

Then he mentioned CSAs and asked how ag could play a role in helping the school lunch program.

Vilsack said that when you look at small scale producers, we need sufficient numbers of farmers so that schools have consistency and predictability of their supply. It's about setting up a system and infrastructure "which we are eager to do" he said. At the end of his answer, he threw in another plug for school gardens. Yay!

Next up was Judy Biggert (R-IL). She asked how many schools would be required to change their menus to comply with new standards. All of them, said Vilsack. Then he reiterated how important making these changes are, and talked about how difficult it is to focus on learning when you're getting made fun of for being fat. He said when he was in fourth grade, his teacher actually told him he was too fat to do a math problem.

Biggert than said she worried that the government was too heavy handed with its regulation and she wants there to be local control over the foods chosen so that they are consistent to local tastes and cultural preferences. Vilsack said that there will be enough room for schools to serve appropriate foods.

Next came Kucinich, who was nothing short of brilliant (even for Kucinich!). He asked to include four scholarly articles in the record. All four were on the link between advertising and health and obesity. Therefore, why do we let companies use advertising junk to kids as a tax write-off? He has a bill, HR 4310, that will reclaim those tax dollars and use the money to pay for better food for kids. He asked Vilsack's opinion on that.

This is where Vilsack disappointed me by acting like a typical, slimy, pro-corporate, do-nothing politician. He said that the USDA's focus has been on an "education component" You know, let companies prey on children too young to even understand the persuasive intent of advertising and then take the tax write-off for doing it. Meanwhile, we'll run some PSAs telling kids to eat healthy food. Despite Vilsack's disappointing response, this is an idea I am going to run. We need to get some popular support for this idea - and OUTRAGE if it is not adopted.

Next was Brett Guthrie (R-KY). He said he doesn't want to tell parents how to raise their kids (referring to educating kids and parents on nutrition) but he's all for limiting food stamps so that recipients can only use them for healthy food.

Vilsack replied that first, it's technologically impossible but second, there's no guarantee it would work. A family could easily buy their healthy stuff with food stamps and then use their additional food budget to pay for junk. (I would add, although Vilsack didn't say it, that this would be incredibly paternalistic of government to do.) Vilsack said that instead they are trying to set up incentive programs so that if, for example, a food stamp recipient bought a cauliflower that costs $1, the food stamp program would give $1 to the retailer but deduct only $.70 from the person's food stamp benefits.

Next was Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY). She noted that she's a nurse and worried about pediatricians reporting kids with the arteries of 45 year olds. She said we WILL find the money for this bill and then mentioned several of her own bills:
HR 3625: The Food Marketing in Schools Assessment Act
HR 3626: The Exemplary Breastfeeding Support Act
HR 5430: The Partnerships for Wellness Act
HR 5431: The Start Healthy Habits Early Act

Her question was about a claim she'd heard (and clearly didn't believe) that there is "little or no evidence that government spending on nutrition programs can be effective at reducing overweight or obesity." She asked Vilsack's opinion. He basically said "that's crazy." Kids eat a significant percent of their calories at school so there's no way that doesn't impact their overall healthy. He called that "common sense."

Next came GT Thompson (R-PA) who sits on the Ag committee too and clearly loves industrial agriculture. I missed a lot of his Q&A but it seems he's worried that school lunch might take money away from other parts of the USDA budget for ag. He asked if we've assessed stimulus spending on school lunch to find out how effective it is. It sounds like he wants hard proof that spending money on kids food works or else he doesn't want to spend it.

Vilsack replied that the amount spent on equipment grants in the stimulus was a drop in the bucket compared to their needs. It sounded like he meant that the problem is so immense that it's not likely that the pittance allotted to schools in the stimulus would have a huge effect if it were measured.

Next came Dina Titus (D-NV). She's concerned about kids access to food when school is out and brought up her bill, the Weekends Without Hunger Act (HR 5012), which establishes a five year pilot program to provide kids with backpacks full of USDA commodities on the weekends. Vilsack liked that idea.

Here's where, if I were Keith Olbermann, I'd announce the Worst Person in the World. The following is NOT what was actually said during this exchange. But it might as well have been:

Bill Cassidy: The more we spend, the fatter people get. So does that mean we shouldn't keep spending money on this?

Vilsack: You are an idiot.

Cassidy: So would we do better if we made Big Government get out of the way by deregulating nutrition standards? And how can someone be hungry and fat at the same time? I don't get it.

Vilsack: You are REALLY an idiot.

Judy Chu asked the last questions. She is worried about how a change in the amount spent on school lunch will affect the price paid by kids who don't get free or reduced cost lunch. Will their families be able to afford a more expensive lunch, for example. Vilsack replied that it's a good point and there are people who are on the bubble (i.e. making just enough not to qualify for free or reduced lunch) so we need to be careful about any changes we make there.

Chu ended by asking what schools are charging for lunch and why are there differences? Vilsack said he'd give her a written response. And that wrapped up the first half of the hearing.

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"Given us pause"... (4.00 / 1)
Next up was the Ranking Member, John Kline (R-MN). He was also supportive of the goals of the bill but said, "What has given us pause, however, is the almost $8 billion price tag attached to this bill."

Fucking Republican slime.  Note how spending on unnecessary wars that make us all (the world over, for that matter) less safe than before never 'gives them pause'.

Or how taking billions and billions from the federal treasury and giving it to aristocrat's brats (which is exactly what they're doing when they oppose / suspend estate taxes) never 'gives them pause'.

Meanwhile, the United States has been a debtor nation since Andrew Jackson's presidency (that's over 173 years, for those keeping count... John McCain probably remembers those years), and the Republicans have had 19 presidents since then and 11 of those presidents have also controlled Congress for the majority of their terms.

So I ask, considering those numbers - who the fuck cares what 'gives Republicans pause' about spending, especially when it comes to the fact that they're completely, demonstrably and totally incompetent at the one area* in which they officially, consistently express 'concern'?

Republicans themselves should give America pause.

*Well, they do kick ass in hatred and racism.  But I guess they don't officially endorse that, at least not yet.

"Local tastes and cultural preferences"... (4.00 / 1)
[Judy] Biggert [R-IL] then said she worried that the government was too heavy handed with its regulation and she wants there to be local control over the foods chosen so that they are consistent to local tastes and cultural preferences. Vilsack said that there will be enough room for schools to serve appropriate foods.

See, this is why I could never be Ag Sec, or anything else in federal government really.

Because my follow-up question would have been something along the lines of -

"What are the local tastes and cultural preferences in your district, Judy?  Are you aware of them?  And are they all worth defending, and funding with federal dollars?  As you're aware, the world headquarters of McDonald's is located in Oak Brook, on the border of your district and which surely employs hundreds or thousands of your constituents.  Does that make McDonald's a 'local taste and cultural preference' to you, Judy?  And in towns and cities where there are nothing but gas stations and pizza chains, should we serve 4-day old rotisserie hot dogs or Domino's to our children 5 times a week?"

Hey now (4.00 / 2)
I grew up in her district so I'm pretty darn familiar with what they serve. But in her case she described when she was working in a largely Hispanic area and there was some federal nutrition program that provided food that was totally stuff the kids had never seen before. After a week of that they made changes to give the kids tortillas, beans, rice, salsa, etc, and that helped out immensely. Kids aren't always willing to eat unfamiliar foods so serving culturally appropriate food was an important thing to do in that case.

What Biggert did not say is that "culturally appropriate" should also consider that a large % of people on earth don't tolerate lactose as adults so a carton of milk might not be the way to go in many areas. But I think that'd be a total non-starter with the USDA.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Thanks for watching this and writing about it. (4.00 / 1)
I hate it when people take something like the obesity problem and try to correlate it with the school lunch program. Just because some kids are over weight, doesn't mean that kids eating free/reduced price school lunches are going to be over weight. I don't know what percentage of kids on that program, if any are overweight.

I wouldn't have a problem with outside contractors being banned from schools. Let kids either buy their lunch from the school cafeteria that was prepared by and sold by the school, bring their own, or in the case of high schools, go off campus for lunch. I've never liked the idea of the school supporting the private food businesses by providing them with a convenient venue to sell to the kids or the staff of the school. If you want to go into the restaurant/food cart business, go build your own danged building or cart.

I remember when I was in grade school, you either brought your own lunch or you bought the lunch that the school made. In highschool you could either bring your own, bought what the school made, or went off campus for lunch. I see absolutely no reason why it shouldn't be the same today. I figured that the schools allow the independant contractors onto the school grounds because it's a revenue stream for the school. But I think it's the wrong revenue stream for them to be tapped into.

Regarding the bubble, in which people are making just barely too much to qualify for free/reduced price lunches. if you look at the 2009-2010 income levels to qualify you'll see that a family of 4 in the contiguous 48 states can make up to $40,793 and still qualify for a reduced price lunch. Considering the tax credits, exhemptions, etc. that you qualify for if you have kids, if you're making even one dollar over that you have no excuse not to be able to provide your kid with a good, healthy meal, because just with the two kids you're taking a lot of money off the tax rolls. For instance, a couple, married with two kids and filing jointly will pay only $5,274. However, if you have two kids, not only do you get the exemptions for the kids, but you also get $962 in earned income credit, so that comes off the ammount of tax you owe, then there's the child tax credit of $500 each for another $1,000 off the taxes you owe (although that one is due to sunset this year and unless congress reauthorizes it, everyone with kids will loose it). Even if a family doesn't take advantage of any other income tax credits or income reducing schemes, that family is going to pay way less in taxes than I would. I didn't figure the tax exhemption for kids as I don't know if the reduced price income table figures unadjusted or adjusted gross income. If the school lunch program uses an unadjusted gross income, then the tax the family actually paid would be even less than what I figured below as you'd have the deduction for dependant kids to reduce the adjusted gross income on the tax return. And there's also the standard deduction which reduces the adjusted gross even further.

If I make the same ammount of money as that family and am single with no dependants, I get to pay $8,131 in federal income taxes whereas the hypothetical family will be paying/owe $3,312 in federal income taxes. So someone in that bubble, I have absolutely no sympathy for. If you're putting between $36,000 and $37,000 in your pocket/year, and you can't feed your own kids, you've got some serious financial issues you need to deal with. You don't need to come to the rest of us asking us to feed your kids for you.

The info I got for the taxes and EIC are from the2009 IRS instructions for form 1040

Normal people scare me.... But not as much as I scare them.

Same amount of money... (0.00 / 0)
I sense a serious flaw in your logic here -

If I make the same ammount of money as that family and am single with no dependants, I get to pay $8,131 in federal income taxes whereas the hypothetical family will be paying/owe $3,312 in federal income taxes.

Yes (assuming the numbers are correct, I didn't look into them), but you also wouldn't be supporting two kids, either, would you?  As a father of one myself, I would know. ;)

And another adult would also be living off that same amount, and affordable housing close to work in America has been very hard to come by for about 60 years now, since we started plowing over our cities to build suburbia and exurbia (where the historic traditional form of affordable housing, apartments above stores, has generally been illegal to build in 99.99% of America, and where it does currently exist again, say Orenco Station, it actually commands premiums nowadays and goes to well-off young professionals who want the lifestyle instead).

Let's break down $37,000 for 4 people - rent / mortgage / insurance?  $1400 a month (I think I'm being quite generous here?)  $16,800 a year?  That takes us down to $21,200.

Two cars, which are generally and quite unfortunately required for all American families these days?  Payments, gas, maintenance, emergency repairs, insurance?  $1000 a month, $12,000 a year?  That brings us down to $9,200 a year.

Groceries?  Clothes for yourselves and the kids?  Doctors bills?  School supplies?  A night at the movies here and there?

Telephone?  Cable?  Electricity?

Student debt for the parents?

Joanne, $40,000 a year for a family of 4 is anything but well of in America.

[ Parent ]
Math error... (0.00 / 0)
Oops, sorry.  That post was a quickie.  A math error I made -

$37K minus $16.8 = $20.2

$20.2 minus $12 - $8.2

[ Parent ]
I have a friend who's family is living on much less than that (0.00 / 0)
and doing quite well. If you don't have enough to support two cars, especially if you're making payments on one or both, you need to dump one of the cars, especially the one that has the highest payment/insurance. Drop full coverage insurance on the car(s)if you can, don't buy new appliances, buy used, eat less expensive food, eat out only very rarely, grow a garden if you're living in a house you're buying/own, etc. Someone making just over 40K, even if they're single, is probably not going to be able to afford insurance unless it's a catastrophic policy, so the medical insurance is a strawman. Have you priced medical insurance for a family of 4 lately? I priced it for myself once a few years ago and it'd cost me around 10K/year even with a high deductible. A catastrophic policy with a 10K deductible is much more affordable, but you still have to cover that 10K if you get injured. Most likely, if a that hypothecial family did have medical insurance, they would have it through their employer. If it was a single earner family, which is pretty much what my friend's family is, they most likely would have insurance through the bread winner's employer.

Normal people scare me.... But not as much as I scare them.

[ Parent ]
Hit post too soon (0.00 / 0)
I meant to say that her family is living on much less per person than the hypothetical family of four earning 40K/year.

Normal people scare me.... But not as much as I scare them.

[ Parent ]
Nice! (0.00 / 0)
Maybe you'll join me in advocating for more communities where it's possible for families to live without two cars!


Where does your friend live, btw?  In Oregon, maybe?  Hey, maybe that's even got something to do with our land use policies!!!

I can tell you right now, there are no families of four living comfortably on $40,000 a year in New Jersey, in Portland,in New York or in over 99% of the rest of the country.  Your one anecdote does not prove much, besides maybe being the exception to the rule.

I didn't say anything basic medical insurance (that comes out before taxes anyways), I was talking about renters' / homeowners' insurance and maybe any supplemental coverage for things someone in the family might need that isn't covered by employer's insurance (you realize America isn't a healthcare utopia, right?).

And I didn't say anything about appliances, either.  That would be a disaster if the stove broke in such a family's house.

And as for "eating less expensive food", I don't think you even thought about the numbers I posted above.  But hey, how about this - healthy, subsidized federal school lunches for the kids!

Or are our tax dollars only good enough for war and Cargill?

[ Parent ]
My friend is my neighbor across the street (0.00 / 0)
and no, I don't think she's the exception to the rule. I know a lot of people living on small incomes, some with kids, some without. A lot of people with low incomes do not carry renter's insurance. If a person has a choice between food and insurance, I suggest they buy the food.

There are all sorts of ways to cut expenses. In Portland, a family of 4 can live comfortably on 40K/year, especially if there is one person working out of the home and one working in the home. But you have to be savy.

And yes, I believe if you can't afford a car, you shouldn't have one. Take the bus and/or bike. That's what my brother pays boukou taxes for on his payroll, specifically for public transit.

I just transfered my auto insurance from the little red truck to the newer blue truck. New truck's newer, and even though I have minimum liability, etc., no comp, nothing like that it's still going to cost me a bit over $1,200/year. If a family has 2 vehicles, park or sell one and drop the insurance.

You can buy a hell of a lot of food for $1,200 if you're frugal, use coupons, etc. The Guinnes Book of World Records has something like $25,000 worth of food bought for 63 cents, which is extreme to the point of absurdity, but it does make the point that coupons, etc. can save a person loads of money.

As far as appliances go, you can find a good used stove for $50. Like I say, if you're low on money, don't go to Fry's or Standard Appliance (both of which I do like) and buy a $1,000 flippin' new fancy ass stove. Out of all appliances we have here, the only one that will get replaced with a new one will be the waterheater, and if I can find a good used one I'll probably just go with that. The stove, the upright freezer, the washer, the dryer, and one of the refrigerators out here were all purchased used. The fridge on the back porch I got for free from a remodel I worked on. So, if ya really do want to save money, and you don't have to keep up with the Joneses, you don't have to be making $100k/year (that's a euphamism), to live well.

Normal people scare me.... But not as much as I scare them.

[ Parent ]
Just a few days ago you said... (0.00 / 0)
anecdotes don't matter, but now they do?

Your friend is the exception, by far.

And yes, I believe if you can't afford a car, you shouldn't have one. Take the bus and/or bike. That's what my brother pays boukou taxes for on his payroll, specifically for public transit.

Wow, ands you call me the radical!

The problem, of course, is that the policies pushed by your fellow conservatives have, as I've said, made it impossible for people to live in places where this is possible.  And no, the solution isn't to pave over every square inch of America.  That's what they've been doing all along, and that anti-urban fanaticism is the what created the problem in the first place.

As for vehicles, again - do you have 2 kids to shuttle around?  If you did, what would your partner do if you were out with the car at work, could not get home and there was an emergency at home or at school?

Buses aren't the solution, especially when (once again) the same 'conservatives' who say "do more with less" have starved or killed public transit everywhere in America in the first place.

And as for $50 for a stove, when you're living hand-to-mouth with 2 kids and another adult in the house, $50 isn't easy to find.  And how would you find one of those in a pinch?  And what would you do for dinner in the days before you could pick it up?  More money eating out.  And how would you pick the stove up?  Can't exactly stick it in the trunk of a used Hyundai, or tie it to the roof...

I don't know whose talking about "keeping up with the Joneses", or making $100,000 a year.  You're building strawmen so thick now that Frank Baum may soon rise from the dead and threaten a lawsuit...

[ Parent ]
Alright, I'm confused (0.00 / 0)
where in that linked to quote did I say that anecdotal evidence doesn't matter?

If you're a family of 4 living on 36-37k/year in your pocket you will not be living hand to mouth if you live frugally. If you are in an apartment and your stove goes out, you will not be replacing it yourself. If you live in a house of your own, you should have contingency plans for an emergency like that. Most people have microwaves, and when a stove goes out it's usually not the whole thing all at once. It's usually one burner, or the oven doesn't heat evenly or to the expected temp. You make do. Instead of cooking on all 4 burners, you use the ones that work. I've got that self same problem here on my own stove. 2 of the 4 burners have gone out, of course they couldn't have been the two small burners that went out.

If the whole thing goes out suddenly, you cook dinner in the microwave and take time in the afternoon/evening after you get off work to locate and procure another. Is it a bitch having to do that? Sure. Maybe you have to cancel the kid's afterschool activities that day or make arrangements for someone else to pick the kid up that afternoon while you go get the new stove. Don't have a pickup? Most appliance sellers will deliver and they'll also pick up the expired appliance. The used appliance dealer we work with out here, that's how he gets appliances to fix and sell. If this is a family where one parent works at home during the day, then that parent is the one who tracks down the new (used) appliance. That's one of the advantages of having one working out and one working in, whoever is staying at home is there to deal with situations like these.

If you're making 36-37K/year, you have co-workers. Pick their brains. Most people have good relationships with their co-workers and those people are usually more than happy to help. Someone at work may even have a used stove to sell, lend or give you. I've seen that happen too. Still don't have the ability or money to pop $50 for a new(used) stove? If it's the burner that's gone out, you can replace those for a lot less even than a new(used) stove (unless it's all 4 that have gone out at the same time. Sometimes it'll be the connection at the stove itself that's gone sideways on you. In that case, if it's a replaceable cord you can get a new one. If not, then you're probably in for a new(used) stove.

Part of owning a home is having contingency plans. Part of having a family is having contingency plans. Actually, part of living is having contingency plans.

If you're living in an urban area, and you need to go to the doctor, you take the bus or bike if you can't afford a vehicle. If it's an emergency you're going to have to figure something else out, if it's an extreme emergency you will be calling 911 and they will send an ambulance in and possibly paramedics.

Wow, how's that for a paragigm shift? You arguing in favor of car ownership/use and me arguing in favor of public transportation.

You sure hell ain't froze over????


Normal people scare me.... But not as much as I scare them.

[ Parent ]
Yes, this is odd... (0.00 / 0)
Wow, how's that for a paragigm shift? You arguing in favor of car ownership/use and me arguing in favor of public transportation.

You sure hell ain't froze over????


I noted it myself up above.


However, I'm not arguing for cars as much I am for realizing they're a temporary necessity for many until we can again build the kinds of places in America that we'll need to thrive, or even just to survive.  My new sigline sums my thoughts up on this perfectly.

I also brought up this point earlier - if you're a family of four making those wages, you aren't going to be able to afford to live in a walkable urban neighborhood with good, frequent and reliable transit service.  The $1200 a month apt in Piscataway, NJ may be affordable to said family, but it also requires the family to own two cars and spend a significant amount of their life whizzing (or crawling) about in a dangerous steel and glass box, whereas a comparable apartment in a place like Jersey City may go for $2800 these days mainly because we're not building affordable apartments for families in the cities.  Even in Portland, I just read that there are less children here in the city today than there were in 1990, when Portland had about 150,000 less people overall.  

Cities are organisms much like farms, both need diversity to ultimately thrive and much of the residences being built or renovated in urban America today are the city equivalent of monocultural soy fields.  High-priced, dressed-up steel & glass  boxes sold at inflated prices to wealthy young professionals or retired bankers.  Politicians and planners all across America are going to have to start standing up to the so-called 'developers', and force them to make arrangements for affordable housing in our cities again.  And I mean mixed-use neighborhoods, not the failed social experiments of the 1940s through the 60s, where we shoved the poor into miserable, massive human filing cabinets and snookered families into moving to far-flung tract developments disguised as 'communities'.

[ Parent ]
About obesity and school lunch (4.00 / 1)
I can say that what blows me away now as an adult is the prevalence of junk in my schools growing up. I'd save up my milk money and then buy Little Debbie snack cakes a few times a week - TOTALLY food I wasn't allowed to have. So it makes little sense to me that schools should be a place where kids can disobey parents and eat crap like that. If a parent sends it to school with a kid, fine. But if the parent doesn't want a kid to have it, it shouldn't be served in school.

As for the correlation between diet-related problems in kids and school lunch (which all kids can eat, not just the low income ones), a kid eating school breakfast and lunch gets 10 out of 21 meals in a week at school. Just lunch is 5 out of 21 meals. So we're talking 25%-50% of the kid's calories coming from school every week during the school year. There's no way that isn't going to affect the kid's overall health. If the food's bad, it's going to harm the kid's health - period. And that could certainly have an impact on whether or not kids are obese.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Leaving school for lunch... (4.00 / 1)
Can somebody explain this to me, too?

I never heard of such a thing until my freshman high school year in Arizona, and in all my years in New Jersey (including my other three years in high school), leaving school grounds during lunch was pretty much an arrestable offense.  Seriously, they had cops in our parking lots.

How widespread is this, and is New Jersey (well, at least urban North Jersey) the only area where leaving school for lunch is not allowed?

I know during that year in Arizona the kids never went home for lunch, they just found a junior or senior to drive them to the closest fast food chain.

Hey, maybe my fellow Jerseyans are onto something!


Why are kids leaving school for lunch, and is this still justified?

[ Parent ]
When I was a grade schooler (4.00 / 1)
the campus was closed. Lots of kids did leave to go to the convenience store a few blocks away. The store owner finally put up a sign saying that children would not be served during school hours. He did that because of shoplifting problems, I don't think the school asked him to adopt that policy. The kids stopped shopping at his store and went a couple blocks further to the 7=11 instead.

When I started highschool all of the campuses were open. My senior year, after I quit taking russian classes at Reed College, I'd take the bus downtown for a spice dog at the Judy's hot dog carts that were pretty common back then. Then I'd spend an hour at one of the book stores, I liked JK Gill and B. Dalton. Then I'd take the bus back to school for my afternoon classes. I'd have a cinamon roll early in the morning, I rode to school with dad when he'd go in to work, so I'd get to school at around 6:30 or 6:45 in the morning. Classes started at 8:30 or 9:00. I knew lots of kids who didn't eat the breakfasts or lunches produced at the schools, both when I was in grade school and highschool. I had the money to eat out because I had weekend jobs mowing lawns and what not. I'd make $25-$40 on the weekends, which will buy you lunch all week long if you're frugal with it.

The reason kids left school for lunch was because the food elsewhere was better.

Normal people scare me.... But not as much as I scare them.

[ Parent ]
There's a sign... (0.00 / 0) the Burgerville across the street from a certain school I won't name but which I believe you once said you attended, saying something like "no minors allowed during school hours", but there's an exception.  I can't remember what it is, I should stop by one of these days just to check it out and see.  Was the exception lunch hour?  Hmmm, I have to look into this.  That would be horrible, and it would also explain why the only McDonald's and the only Wendy's in inner SE Portland are also within a few blocks of said school.

The reason kids left school for lunch was because the food elsewhere was better.

1. 'Better' in what way?  A kid might always think McDonald's chicken nuggets are 'better' than asparagus, but then again we don't let kids design our cities (with a few modernist "architects" being the exception) so why should we let their tastes decide school lunch policy?  Especially when their tastes are being scientifically and psychologically manipulated by multi-billion dollar corporations?

2.  This is also what we're fighting for here, to make sure this isn't so.

[ Parent ]
I'll bet you're talking about my old alma matter Grover Cleveland HS (0.00 / 0)
To your question of better in what way?, it was better tasting. A Judy's Spice Dog always beat even the best food that Cleveland could produce, and they were cooking from scratch. I'd probably also take any of the other food carts in Portland right now over the best that Cleveland's kitchen could put out when I was in HS.

Once kids get to HS, they really should be expected to take more responsibility for themselves. I think that's why the campuses were open for HS, but closed for grade school (not that a closed campus actually kept any of the kids on the school grounds who wanted to leave).

When I was going to Cleveland, some of the kids would go to McDonalds, but not many. Mostly they'd go to the little burrito joint across Powell from the school. Good food, fast service. It was a hole in the wall, litterally, it was a window with a shelf. Some people at the school talked about trying to force the vendor out of business because kids were going over there to get burritos and tacos and the occasional snow cone, that move was quashed pretty quickly.

Also, to your second point regarding what we're fighting for. While I don't think the school, via your and my and everyone else's tax money, should serve the kind of crap they serve (well, most of them). I do think the schools should serve better than what they are currently offering. I also don't think that kids should be forced to eat school lunch. It should be offered, but if the parent(s) want to send lunch with the kid(s) or as in HS the kid wants to go off campus and eat somewhere else, then the kid and the parents should have that option.

I know that some schools, I think they're all private, don't allow food from offsite, all kids must either eat the school lunch or go hungry. That, IMO, would be a terrible move on the part of the schools. I'm not saying that you, yourself, are suggesting that, but I have heard others run that particular flag up the pole.

Normal people scare me.... But not as much as I scare them.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, that's the one... (0.00 / 0)
And hey, you're talking to one of the biggest Portland Food Cart boosters on the planet here!  I don't dispute the food's good, I do dispute that we should allow our children off-campus to eat it during school hours.  That's what after school is for, if the parents and the child so choose.  And I'd also never claim that the stuff at the carts are good for you, either.

Also, outside of major cities the 'choices' for off-campus high school meals are essentially McDonald's, Burger King, or Taco Bell.  Maybe a Sabrett's stand in Hackensack or a slice of pizza in New Haven or a greasy spoon in Pocatello.

None of these things are things we should be promoting, and if I'm suggesting anything it's to 'close' high school campuses for lunch.  I think that is a good idea, myself, to go along with with improving school meals.

I have no problem with food brought from home, I think the schools who've banned that have done so out of allergy concerns?  Peanut butter, kids trading lunch, etc?

[ Parent ]
in high school (4.00 / 1)
the seniors were allowed to do open campus lunch second semester (or maybe all year?). That meant they were allowed to leave. But it was JUST the seniors who could do this. I didn't have a car, nor did I have friends with cars in my lunch period, so it was pointless for me.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
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