Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bad Arnold & The School Lunch Examiner.

First blog of July and I have several mini-topics to go over.  I think this might be a better format, as the longer blogs I'm known for might be off-putting to people wanting some quick serve information.  It's ironic, because I was taught to be succinct in my writing and I'm a staunch opponent of length requirements in writing assignments.

First thing... Examiner.

I applied to write posts for the Examiner so I could at least make a little of what Adam Carolla calls WAM(walking around money).  Blogger has ad programs, but I've earned a whopping $6 in a year.  So I applied and submitted a writing sample, which I had to edit extensively because they didn't like anything written in first person.  It's such an old school, pre-blogging, pre-op-ed style.  It's like being asked to use a typewriter.  I submitted, I waited, I got fucking rejected.  Not bitter...nope, not at all.  How could I possibly compete with the award winning writing of the Examiner Food writers discussing the most ironic, bitter micro-brews, or some crazy lady talking about how Mountain Dew is destroying America...

IFT 2010 in Chicago has begun.  Have fun and mingle lots my friends.  For those that don't know, IFT is the Institute of Food Technologists, which is a professional organization for food science and food industry pro's.  IFT is a great resource if you have questions about food science and you can find them on Twitter @IFT

I need a career, folks.  I keep trying and I keep getting denied.  I have talents that are going to waste.  I can write, speak, present, sell, collaborate, investigate, or manage things for your organization.  I am very relocatable and willing to travel 100% for my job.  I'll work trade shows and live out of a suitcase if that is what you need.  If you are in need of a good addition for your team, please contact me on Twitter @samvance 

The House Committee on Education and Labor is holding hearings about the School Lunch Program today.  They want an $8 Billion budget for school lunches.  I'm not sure if this is the proposed budget or an addition to the budget, especially frustrating since I was just searching for the info on the committee website.

They seem to be having 2 hearings today.  One hearing is about how this bill(H.R. 5504) will help tackle childhood obesity and the other is about how we it will help end child hunger... What?  A couple things about this: The bill doesn't directly address obesity.  The bill makes it easier to use local farms and I think it updates the nutrition requirements based on professional recommendations.  By law, the school lunch program must provide no less than 30% of the nutrition and caloric value that a child needs in a day.  This is assuming the kid eats 3 meals a day.  

The way to battle obesity is to reduce calories, not increase the nutritional density of a food.  This bill can do little to that end because the kid eats whatever when he/she gets home from school.  Also, you can't force the kids to eat the food you make.  So what is the increase in spending?  I know some of the spending is a 6 cent increase in the school lunch reimbursement rate, but that doesn't account for all of it.  More of the money comes from increasing the number of kids that qualify for free and reduced lunches, but again, that doesn't account for all the money.  The rest is in buying more expensive food.  

This is directly related to the local farm provisions.  You see, 'local' farms charge a premium for the food and take advantage of your fear and anxiety over processed foods and corporations.  This creates a sort of halo effect for these operations, where consumers falsely conclude that local food is more nutritive and safer.  It isn't.  In fact, Dole and Del Monte have greater resources for ensuring that fruits and vegetables are safe.  Small operations can't afford these resources and don't intend to invest in them.  The whole reason they market themselves as local is so they can charge a premium on that food.  A large operation has to invest to protect itself against recalls and lawsuits.  Also, these operations are usually highly automated, meaning there are less people touching and contaminating the product.

I really think this just comes down to foodies and food hysterics being anti-corporate, anti-science, and pro-presentation.  They really don't like the way school food looks, which isn't the point of it.  I could make these foodies a school lunch that was more fattening and has more calories and they would choose it over the current school lunch.  Actually, Cornell has done research where they take fast food and reconfigure it to look like fine dining and participants had substantially higher opinions about that food and how many calories they thought it had versus the exact same fast food they just sampled.  This bill has a couple good things in it, but for the most part it's style over substance.

Arnold Foods makes a wide assortment of higher end breads.  They usually enjoy shelf placement right alongside Sara Lee and Pepperidge Farm.  I was shopping at the Bigg's Hypermarket in Hyde Park (Cincinnati) and noticed and unusual quality defect in a package of their sesame seed sandwich buns.

Can you tell which package doesn't look right?

The package on the left is barely done and has no color.  I am amazed that nobody working on the line or in QA for Arnold caught this.  The bottom of the package is soggy and a little doughy.  The process for these buns is pretty straight forward.  Dough is batched and loaded into a hopper where it is portioned, shaped, and sent through a proofing room.  Then the dough heads through an oven on a belt.  Most likely, the belt speed, oven temp was adjusted and a few of the buns were in the oven when the belt speed was too fast or the oven temp was too low.  This should have been picked up by QA though.

Bad Buns.

Good Buns.

FYI - I did take the bad buns to Bigg's customer service counter and explain what the issue was and told her the grocery manager could probably get a credit for them.

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