Thursday, June 24, 2010

Top Chef Serves Up Some Propaganda

Bravo Network's hit reality show Top Chef, starring culinary judges Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio (and based in D.C. this time around) usually provides fun, entertaining, and apolitical content. But last night's unusually boring installment came garnished with some political propaganda revolving around "underfunded" public school cafeterias and efforts to encourage students to eat more healthy fare.

What Jonah Goldberg writes at NationalReviewOnline is almost exactly what was going through our mind during the episode:
But Holy Crisco Batman, the agitproppy sermonizing of the whole thing was infuriating: The crocodile tears, the quivering lips, the personal testimonials about how passionate the chefs are about the issue, the righteousness about our poor underfunded schools. But what was worse was the ignorance and innumeracy. Watching the show, you'd have no idea that DC public schools are among the best funded in the country ($25,000 or so per pupil – on par with DC’s most expensive private schools). The problem is they are among the worst run...If kids are getting bad meals in DC public schools it's not because they're being starved for resources it's because the teacher's unions and bloated bureaucrats running the schools are, quite literally, stealing food from the mouths of poor children.
According to Top Chef, schools get a mere two dollars and change per student per meal. So the contestants were given 2 bucks and change per student to cook a nutritious meal for fifty kids...Here's the problem. No one bothered to mention the fact that the schools buy in bulk at the wholesale level...But they kept using this low per-student amount to make it sound like the only reason public schools don’t serve more nutritious food is because school cafeteria’s are underfunded. And they may be underfunded, but the fault doesn’t lie with American taxpayers whose consciousness needs to be raised. They pay more than enough already. The fault lies with incompetent bureaucrats, greedy unions and cowardly politicians.
As Goldberg adds, no one watches Top Chef for political grandstanding. Just the opposite. The intense competition among the "cheftestants" is supposed to provide an escape from all that. And this is only the second episode of the program's D.C.-based seventh season. We may wind up with a case of indigestion.