Anyways, with all the news focused on Chimpanzees and the Economy lately, I felt like this is a story that went under the radar. And deserves to be seen to inform the public.
So, I've been tracking the wheelings and dealings of food and beverage lobbyists for 2 years now. I worked on a documentary about the obesity epidemic and learned statistics that blew my mind. For example, when offered "fast food" items at school lunch, teenagers consume an average of 1350 calories. Or that french fries and ketchup make up 46% of the "fruits and vegetables" teenagers consume each year.
I read Marion Nestle's "Food Politics", Ann Cooper's "Lunch Lessons", and Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" back-to-back, which further blew my mind.
So, when I learned that 2009 was the year Congress and the USDA would be renewing the National School Lunch Program, I decided that I would pay close attention to who the movers and shakers would be.
This lead me to a Jan 28 meeting at the Institute of Medicine. A team of scientists had been gathered to come up with revisions and updates to the vastly outdated lunch program. But when I went to the meeting, I looked at the name tags of those in the room and realized that science was in the minority...
So, this is a scientific conference on school lunch and child health.
But, in the video, you see a room full of corporate interests. I approached the Pepsi man and asked "Why are you here"? His response, in essence, was "for the industry".
The law firm Powell Tate, which used to represent cigarette giant R.J. Reynolds, was sitting next to its new client... The National Pork Board. That's right... pork. All those hot dogs, corn dogs, etc make a lot of money in schools. You'll see that I tried to interview the Pork Lobby, but they ran away quickly.
Porter Novelli, a PR firm which holds McDonald's as one of its clients, was sitting in attendance. Interesting point, remember when the USDA updated the "Food Pyramid" in 2005? Remember how that "Food Pyramid" has NO food on it? Remember how it won't say "eat less", only "eat moderately"? Guess who the USDA paid to design all that? Yep, Porter Novelli.
And the Grocers Manufacturers of America, a huge lobby group which has teamed up with soda giants to prevent the removal of junk food from schools, had 3 members in attendance.
The Dairy Lobby was there too, of course. Did you know that they were forced to remove a huge ad campaign last year due to false claims? That should show how sound their "science" is. Also, when you sign on to mypyramid.gov, you can input that you are any age, any sex, and any weight and it says, "Drink 3-4 glasses of milk a day." Hmmmm. Wonder who paid for that...
And did you know that the USDA's nutrition standards for school snack lines haven't been updated since 1979? Yep, because of this, jelly beans and seltzer water are BANNED. But chocolate candy bars, chips, and Debbie Cakes are ALLOWED. It doesn't make any sense as to why this hasn't been updated in 30 YEARS!!! Oh, wait, yes it does. The food lobby.
I hope you enjoy the news piece. It was a difficult piece to put together. I just hope more people see it. At least the people tired of hearing about killer chimps...