Alice Waters Seeks Organic Bailout

Ah, California, that prodigious producer of fruits, nuts, and flakes. Alice Waters, the famous Chez Panisse chef, has seized on the national craze for bailouts to demand organic, unprocessed school lunches for all.

How like a Californian to seize on a trend early: Wall Street and Detroit are getting bailouts. Why not me and my cause, the likes of Waters are now thinking. What's next? A yoga jobs package? A transcendental meditation trust fund?

Waters doesn't even bother to hide her opportunism:

This new era of government bailouts and widespread concern over wasteful spending offers an opportunity to take a hard look at the National School Lunch Program. Launched in 1946 as a public safety net, it has turned out to be a poor investment. It should be redesigned to make our children healthier.

Quite political of her to use the arrival of a bailout-happy new administration to reheat an old dish. Waters has been fighting since 1997 to scrap the existing $9 billion school-lunch program and replace it with a $27 billion-plus plan to feed the nation's schoolchildren with locally grown, pesticide-free fare. That's how the public schools of Berkeley, Calif., do it, in a program Waters spearheaded.

But come on. California's salubrious climate produces more than half of the nation's fruits, nuts, and vegetables. It is easy, amidst this bounty, to contemplate feeding children from the local cornucopia.

It's not a bad idea to put better fare in front of kids. Indeed, with childhood obesity rampant, it's a national imperative. And Waters couldn't ask for a better foodie-in-chief: Obama got elected despite pundits' concerns about his habit of eating arugula.

But is the best way to sell this program to demand that the nations' school cafeterias reshape themselves in Berkeley's image? Anyone who's tried to get kids to eat something new knows that small doses are best. By demanding an instant revolution — rather like the vegan vigilantes of NYU — Waters might as well be sending her proposal straight to the D.C. compost heap. At least one hopes so. Because the privileged and sanctimonious foodies of California hardly need a bailout.