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Kids may not like the peas and carrots served up by the nation's school lunch program, but many of the country's leading food companies enjoy the billions of dollars in sales that bring those vegetables to their plates. Behind the overcooked vegetables and steam-table pizza that some 29 million American children confront each school day is an industry that rivals defense contractors and media giants in its ability to bring home the federal bacon--er, the seasoned lettuce cup. School lunch. A prosaic, even nostalgic event, multiplied hundreds of millions of times--187 billion lunches served--becomes, voila! a $6.6 billion annual all-you-can-eat lunch line, one of the most popular and sturdy of all federal social programs (see Figure 1). Except for food stamps ($27 billion), it is the most expensive of all federal food programs. Pass the gravy!