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USDA to serve lawmakers school lunches

By Ed O'Keefe

By The Post's Jane Black:

Chicken fajita strips, sliced ham and canned green beans: That's what's for lunch one day next week for some lawmakers and Congressional staffers, courtesy of the Department of Agriculture. The menu offers the same food -- so-called commodity food -- that the agency provides every day to public schools across the nation.

Tom Vilsack
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack chows down. (Post)

The goal of next week's special tasting is to show lawmakers the improvements the department has made in the nutritional quality -- and taste -- of the $1.2 billion of school commodity foods and to win support to fund further improvements. With one-third of U.S. children overweight of obese, a condition that may lead to life-long health problems, the USDA has been working hard to cut salt, reduce fat and provide more fruits and vegetables.

"These guys are moving in the right direction," said Tony Geraci, the food service director for Baltimore City Public Schools and a pioneer for healthful foods in schools. "Is it fixed? Hell, no. But at least now we're having conversations about this. Before, it was straight-up stonewalling."

The tasting also is an attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of the commodity foods program, which provides from 15 percent to 20 percent of food served in school cafeterias.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | December 10, 2009; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Congress  
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