Meet John Bode, the man with the magic to turn pizza into a federally subsidized vegetable for our children to enjoy.
According to lobbying reports obtained by The Second Alarm, Bode was the point man for Schwan Foods, the largest maker of frozen pizzas purchased by federally-subsidized school programs, in forcing to qualify pizza as a nutritious vegetable. Bode, a revolving door staffer from the USDA and Congress, was contracted by Schwan Foods to lobby Congress on proposed school lunch food standards in the latest appropriations bill. See a copy of Bode’s lobbying report here.
Schwan Foods is also a contributing member of two trade associations that lobbied on the bill. The “Frozen Food Institute” and the “Coalition for Sustainable School Meal Programs” received cash from industrial food corporations to lobby heavily on the bill. The Frozen Food Institute might have a funny sounding name, but the group runs on a $4.6 million operating budget. That’s serious lobbying firepower, and its only part of the influence operation by industrial food producers with skin in the school lunch game.
Brett Neely, a reporter from Minnesota Public Radio, has an astonishing report on the efforts by companies like Schwan Foods and ConAgra, the massive agribiz conglomerate that makes the stuff that goes into mass-produced frozen pizzas. ConAgra’s lobbying team is robust, and includes six different registered lobbyists (three are in-house, three are from a firm called Cornerstone Government Affairs). However, its difficult to determine which lobbyists work on issues like frozen pizzas, and which ones lobby on ConAgra’s other priorities — like exemptions on commodity speculation rules.
A screenshot that shows ConAgra’s efforts to minimize the new nutritional standards is below:
Both Schwan Foods and ConAgra have active political action committees, which allow the companies to funnel thousands to important members of Congress. But a more subtle effort is the way both firms have snuck their talking points into congressional letters and official actions by Congress.
In April, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) attacked the administration for daring to propose better food options for American school children. As Neely reported, Kline’s arguments were identical to reports produced by the frozen food lobby. View a copy of the letter here.