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To those unfamiliar with the absurdist theater of school lunch, it is puzzling, even maddening, that feeding kids nutritious food should be so hard. You buy good food. You cook it. You serve it to hungry kids.Yet the National School Lunch Program, an $11.7 billion behemoth that feeds more than 31 million children each day, is a mess, and has been for years. Conflicts of interest were built into the program. It was pushed through Congress after World War II with the support of military leaders who wanted to ensure that there would be enough healthy young men to fight the next war, and of farmers who were looking for a place to unload their surplus corn, milk and meat. The result was that schools became the dumping ground for the cheap calories our modern agricultural system was designed to overproduce.
I had a dream where I was to attend an interview for a very specialized post-graduate program. I was expecting one or two on a panel, but was led to a room which turned out to be an auditorium filled with over a hundred people. They called a name and someone very scholarly appeared and gave a very boring presentation. Another was stilted but educational. Then another who strolled all over the room like a grandmotherly Jerry Springer (who i somehow followed through the halls and the lobby like a zooming comedy show camera), finally returning to plop herself down in a velvet chair which was already occupied by another elderly woman who was somehow dressed like she was in a 17th century English court. She asked her if she was fond of Chaucer … The response was confused and the applicant just said she knew because she saw the light in her eyes and her loving glance at THIS. Voila. She pulled out a flat cardboard ‘leather book,’ asking if this was her favorite. The lady said “What? This is my favorite, but this is only a piece of paper – what did you do to my …” at which point the applicant ripped it up, throwing it up in the air when it suddenly became a huge actual leather illuminated item that landed in her lap. She got up with an exaggerated curtsey and a standing ovation. I was back outside in the hall and told the head that I had not expected this and started hyperventilating like an asthma attack. He told me to relax and just say something off the top of my head. It went okay, but could never come close to the show that had preceded me. Drenched, I walked out to receive a pat on the back and a whisper in the ear: “Your concentration is so specialized that … Well, we have five openings for the year … and four applicants. Might not be much of a problem.”