I’m on the ground in Chicago, and gearing up for the Midwest Produce Expo. Check my twitter feed @tckarst for a sweet view out the 23rd story of the Hyatt Regency I snapped just now.

My wife and I stopped in for the first time at a Sprouts Market in suburban Kansas City over the weekend, and I have to say I enjoyed the experience.

We picked up a roast beef wrap for lunch and also bought some gala apples in a tote bag for the very aggressive price of 98 cents per pound. Everything about the store accentuated fresh, bulk, and freshly prepared foods. Its smaller format seemed easier to navigate and the produce displays evoked a similar feel to Trader Joe's.

A competitor like Sprouts will make organic and natural foods retailers rethink their pricing approach, and surely give "middle market" supermarket stores stiff competition for fresh sales.


 For some reason, Matt Drudge and the Drudge Report love the story that school districts hate the new updated school meal standards. This morning on the Drudge Report -  the old timey news aggregation site  that somehow is impossible for me to ignore - there were two links about discontent with school meals.

REVOLT: KY school district drops lunch program...


ATLANTA: 'We're expected to hire food police'...

It seems that many of the Drudge-linked coverage aims to vilify first lady Michelle Obama as the respective story's central theme. This is ludicrous, of course, since that the first lady did not "write the rules" of the updated school nutrition standards. She has used her position to advocate for healthy eating, and that's about it. The USDA, based on recommendations of nutrition experts, wrote the school lunch rules.

 Relative to the story about the Kentucky school, the first paragraph revealed that "lunch at Fort Thomas Independent Schools may include more French fries and larger portions this year."

The school district is "opting out" of the federal school lunch program, forfeiting big bucks because kids didn't like to eat their healthy lunches.

From the story:

"Andi Sempier, the mother of a third-grade student at Fort Thomas' Woodfill Elementary school, said she's glad the district did away with the standards.

“I'm lucky my daughter will eat her vegetables. But it was very wasteful from what I've seen from being in the cafeteria,” she said."


I respect what the Kentucky school district is doing. If they can't accept the nutrition standards, then forfeit federal funds and get out.

Go ahead and serve greasy pizza, tater tots and cinnamon rolls to your heart's content.

The School Nutrition Association is allowing itself to be used in this political fight. By inviting Congressional meddling in school lunch standards, the group has hurt its credibility as a trusted advocate for advances in child nutrition.

Don't make the school lunch standards debate a personal vendetta against the Obama Administration.

The group recently put out a news release, and here is an excerpt:

 Persistent revenue declines and rising costs threaten the financial stability of many school meal programs. The Fiscal Year 2015 House Agriculture Appropriations Bill proposes a temporary one-year waiver of the new standards for school meal programs operating at a net loss for six months or more:

• 22.5% of respondents reported their programs are eligible for the proposed one-year waiver, and another 12% were unsure if their programs would be eligible.

• 22.7% of respondents indicated they would be interested in applying for the waiver.

Survey respondents also reported significant increases in plate waste and challenges with the cost of foods that meet the new standards, including the 2014 mandates that all grains must be whole grain rich and that each breakfast offer a full cup of fruit/vegetable.


  • 81% report an increase in the amount of food being thrown away by students at lunch.
  •  Vegetables are most frequently identified as causing the increase in plate waste.
  • More than 60% anticipate whole grain rich mandates will increase their average cost of preparing school meals in SY 2014-15.
  • 87% anticipate the breakfast mandate will increase the cost of preparing a breakfast in SY 2014-15, and indicated an average cost increase of approximately 14 cents per breakfast.



TK: The flimsy one-year waiver will morph into one of indefinite length. The approach by SNA to seek these dubious “waivers” is inviting more half-hearted attempts at compliance and wrong-headed political attacks. Eventually, the approach will erode the integrity of the program. School districts should either work with the program and find success or, like the Kentucky district, get out and pay their own freight.