America may not be able to afford healthy school lunches, but apparently Uncle Sam’s wallet is still large enough for more handouts to already-wealthy corporations. In the latest tax-break package, Republicans slipped in the “Twinkie subsidy,” which gives a break to companies that donate unsold food to food banks.

According to the bill, companies can claim up to twice the cost of their expired chips, damaged mac-and-cheese boxes and chocolate Easter bunnies from last season. The price tag for taxpayers? about $200 million per year, or $2 billion over the next decade.

Corporations subsidized for donating old Twinkies?

photo credit: elana’s pantry via photopin cc

I’m all for donating food, but why do we have to bribe corporations to give their unsold products to the needy? We shouldn’t have to pay these them to act ethically. Would they otherwise simply throw away tons of food? That’s reprehensible.

And then there’s the health question.

“I don’t know how much of the $200 million is stale potato chips and Twinkies, and sugary drinks and candy, but a portion of it is,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas).

Republicans are arguing that the same nutrition standards that apply to food stamps apply to donations. And they have a point — I’m not sure why EBT pays for junk food, but it’s probably not helping the obesity epidemic, which already affects the poor more than the affluent.

In any case, the GOP is clearly less concerned with the nation’s health than with aiding their corporate friends. The House has already approved a bill that allow schools to opt out of the new healthy school-lunch program, which requires schools to offer more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

In White House spokesman Jay Carney’s words: “These are the same people who just last year declared pizza as a vegetable and who now think that decisions about kids’ health should be made by politicians instead of pediatricians.” Scary.