I’ve always been slightly amused by the Michael Pollan theory that “mostly plants” is an adequate guide to nutrition, given that it’s consistent with a diet consisting primarily of French fries. The US Department of Agriculture apparently shares these concerns and wants to promulgate rules limiting the use of potatoes in federally subsidized school lunch programs in order to encourage schools to offer healthier, more nutrient-rich vegetables. Naturally, this raises various objections from potato-producers and the politicians who represent potato-growing regions of the country.
I learned about this from Rep Michele Bachmann’s Twitter feed:
This is emblematic of two horrible intellectual habits that have overtaken the current populist right. One is the incredibly slipshod constitutional law here. Obviously the federal government has the authority to specify for what purposes federal grant money can be used. Obviously. How else could it work? The other is the tendency to regard any existing profit stream as a form of property. Banks are entitled to their federal subsidies to offer student loans. For-profit colleges are entitled to their own student loan subsidy stream. Health care providers are entitled to unlimited wasteful spending at federal expense. Potato growers are entitled to their school lunch money.
It’s nuts. But it also reminds me of a story about why I resist drawing analogies between Finnish public education and American public education. When I was over there, they had relatively recently re-written the school lunch guidelines. The basic idea was that kids’ food should be approximately 50% vegetables, 25% meat/fish, 25% starchy stuff. How’d they determine that? Well, the ministry wanted to rewrite the lunch guidelines so they asked some experts to come up with a formula that was sound and simple to implement. So they did, and it was changed. Magic! No parliamentary clown show with the rice lobby and its hired politicians denouncing the threat to Finnish liberty. Just a small, simple, basic reform.