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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Putnam says healthier school lunches = good economics



 TALLAHASSEE – As school districts in Florida are getting complaints about the lunches they’re serving to comply with new federal nutrition rules aimed at curbing calories, Florida Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam offered his support for healthier servings on Wednesday.

“If we’re content to serve tater tots and ketchup and call it a starch and a vegetable, we will pay the economic price for doing that,” Putnam told The Economic Club of Florida during a luncheon. “But that’s an inefficient market in a state that produces 300 different things, all of which your mother would be proud of you to eat.”

Since taking office last year, Putnam has overseen the state’s school lunch program for the Department of Education. He has made student nutrition a top priority, calling it an economic issue. If students eat poorly now, it establishes bad eating habits that will be subsidized by taxpayers in higher health care costs later, he says.

He touted the success of his stewardship of school lunches, explaining that his oversight has brought prices down. For instance, Miami-Dade was paying $27 a carton for sweet corn. Now, under the bulk statewide contract his department manages, it pays under $19.  

“We have stopped the business of running 67 different restaurant chains, we now run one restaurant chain in the state, we procure the food using one contract that will serve the entire state,” Putnam said. “We are defying the notion that to eat better costs more.

“That’s not just good economics. That’s good for our kids, good for nutrition, good for the development of our state.”

Side note: The lunch served by the Economic Club was sorta healthy. It included a garden salad and a fruit salad, plus sliced lamb, roasted potatoes, fried chicken (ahem) and apple pie and ice cream for dessert.  

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 2:35pm]


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