NY Times: U.S. School Lunch as Political Battleground

The New York Times article speaks about the power of attentiveness and “human” treatment.

“but Matz, wry and impish even in his late 60s, lavished the lunch ladies with the kind of respect they didn’t always get in school cafeterias…

“He would tell everybody: ‘You are a much better lobbyist than I am. You are how we get things done,’ ” said Dorothy Caldwell, who served a term as the association’s president in the early 1990s. “And people liked that.”

Matz often told the lunch ladies they were front-line warriors in the battle for better eating, and they liked that too…Few workers, inside the government or out, did more to shape the health of children.

Last summer, the School Nutrition Association dumped Matz…Even as they claim to support the act, the lunch ladies have become the shock troops in a sometimes absurdly complex battle to roll back the Obama’s administration’s anti-obesity agenda.”

And the food wars behind federal school lunches:

“…plates had to have fewer “starchy vegetables,” obvious code words for French fries.

The starchy-vegetable lobby was quick to take offense. “We didn’t find favor with efforts to paint certain vegetables as, for unspecified reasons, less healthy than other vegetables,” was how Kraig R. Naasz, the head of the American Frozen Food Institute, which represents about 500 makers of frozen foods and vegetables, explained it…

Matz was not only lobbying for the lunch ladies, who wanted to abolish the mandatory fruit-and-vegetable requirement, but he also was general counsel to the fresh-produce trade association, which loved the requirement.

Kraig Naasz, the frozen-food advocate, was also impressed. “I’m supposed to explain in seven to 10 seconds how many ounces of tomato paste should get credited when it comes as a paste,” Naasz told me. “And Margo gets to say, ‘Congress thinks pizza is a vegetable.’ ”