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The Weekend Desk Report

"Last week Michigan became the latest state to opt out of the federal Smart Snack standards," WBEZ reported this week.

"The rules regulate what can be sold in school fundraisers and vending machines that help schools pay the bill. More than 22 states have pushed for some kind of exemption from these rules since they went into effect last July. So just how stringent are they?

"The snacks must be:

  • "whole grain rich" if they are grain-based, meaning 50 percent whole grain
  • no more than 200 calories
  • no more than 230 mgs of sodium
  • no more than 35 percent sugar, by weight
  • lower in fat, meaning no more than a third of their calories can come from fat

"So all that's left is kale, right?

"Well, not really. In fact, under these new rules, two of the top sellers in some Chicago Public Schools are reformulated Flamin' Hot Cheetos and Kellogg's Pop Tarts."

I'll have what they're having.


"To see this in action, all you have to do is drop by a Chicago Public high school vending machine where reformulated Pop Tarts and Flamin' Hot Cheeto Puffs occupy several slots. In an interview with WBEZ Wednesday, CPS's head of Nutrition Services Leslie Fowler said she had no idea schools were selling the snacks."

Maybe they didn't teach her that at Aramark.


Oh, lookie here.

I wonder how that turned out.


Another outstanding ethics issue tackled in this year's report involves a dispute between two of the nation's largest food service providers, who were competing for the 2013 school food contract, valued at nearly $100 million a year. Food giant Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality charged that CPS school food chief (and former Aramark manager) Leslie Fowler showed favoritism to her former employer in the contract bidding process. The district asked the OIG to rule on the issue at the time, and it concluded that Fowler's actions "did not violate applicable ethics policies."

In its new report, however, the OIG says Fowler "engaged in questionable conduct throughout the award process." This included dining twice with the president of Aramark during the process and telling fellow bid committee members that her boss did not want Chartwells to win the contract. The report further says that Fowler told "staff members that she did not need to review (Aramark's bid) because she had written proposals for" the company herself and Aramark knew what she wanted.

In the process of the Fowler investigation, "the OIG also learned that the administrator prodded subordinates to participate in a party game that made people feel uncomfortable."

Do tell!


But I digress.

Back to the story at hand:

The district, she said, has prohibited reformulated snacks for about a year. Still, a list of approved snacks that CPS provided to WBEZ on Wednesday includes Baked Cheetos and Reduced Fat Nilla Wafers. Another list the district sent to WBEZ earlier Wednesday included reduced fat Cool Ranch Doritos as an approved snack. But when WBEZ noted that snack was also "reformulated," the CPS official claimed she'd given us the wrong list.

To add to the confusion, Fowler told WBEZ Wednesday that the "only Cheeto that is approved is the whole grain puff," which are not included on the latest list but are featured in several district machines.

Look, I love Cheetos as much as anyone, but if I had kids ... wait, why are there vending machines in schools in the first place?

When I was a kid, we had to walk five miles - well, five blocks - to a vending machine.

This seems like such a no-brainer for CPS. No pun intended.


"New York University Nutrition professor Marion Nestle thinks part of the problem is that the rules encourage companies to hit certain nutrient numbers rather than providing real food.

"This is a classic case of nutritionism," she said. "If you set up nutrition standards, the food industry can do anything to meet those standards and this is a perfect example of that...So this is a better-for-you junk food. And, of course, the question is: is that a good choice? And no, of course, it's not."

"When asked to discuss the issue, Cheeto maker Frito-Lay would not grant WBEZ an interview."

That's odd. Last year the CEO of Frito-Lay North America said he "wants to be part of the fight against the obesity epidemic."

(I love this part: "On the topic of Doritos Locos Tacos, he talks about 'ideating' with Taco Bell, and how 'the product hit all the velocity thresholds' during initial market tests.")


I point out that if he really wanted kids to be healthy, he could just stop selling them chips and soda.

"Totally," he says. "Life's about choices. We provide choices to our consumers.

And if we profit by seducing kids into making bad choices because of the irresistibility of our market-researched and finely tuned factory-produced products, so be it. It's a choice!


I couldn't find Greco's compensation information this morning, but I'm sure he could personally stock every CPS vending machine with flamin' hot caviar for years to come without so much as making a dent in his wallet.


"The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it couldn't comment on the wisdom of selling Cheetos at school."

Really, Ag Department? Not even a plug for products grown by farmers that aren't flamin' hot but are good for you?


"It's not just kids who are drawn to the orange curly snacks. For cash strapped school administrators, Cheetos can deliver plenty of green. Under the current CPS deal with Avcoa Vending, schools get a 20 percent commission on all sales; and that can add up to more than $10,000 in discretionary spending a year."

Bingo. It always comes back to the same thing, doesn't it?


Beachwood Radio Sports Hour: Cubs In Aliceland
Where Javy Baez stays up and Kris Bryant goes down.

Plus: Coach in Vegas; Our Elite Neighbors; We Hate Christian Laettner; McDonald McPunditry; Daft Town Chicago; Bulls' Secret Plan Coming To Fruition; Blackhawks' Secret Plan Not Coming To Fruition; DePaul's Third Strike; and The Chicago Fire Did Something This Week. (With Show Notes)

The 2015 Fantasy Fix Baseball Draft Guide Pt. 5: Catchers & Closers
Montero vs. Flowers, Robertson vs. Rondon.


The Beachwood Radio Hour #50
Is in production!


The Sound Opinions Weekend Listening Report: "Back from their trip to Austin, TX for SXSW, Jim and Greg share their favorite bands from the annual music conference. Later, they review the surprise new album from hip-hop titan Kendrick Lamar."


* Chicago Team To Study Long-Term Stay In Space.

"Throughout the year, Scott Kelly will send blood and stool samples back to Earth to be tested."

How? As e-mail attachments?

* Health Insurers Give In To Public Pressure To Care About People's Health.

HIV meds, for chrissake.

* Bison To Graze At Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

Don't tell Ricketts or Kurtis.


A sampling.




The Beachwood Tip Line: Make it rain.


Posted on March 28, 2015

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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