This West Virginia town built a model school-lunch program. The GOP wants to tear it down.

In 2010, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver aired a reality show, “Food Revolution,” about Huntington, W.Va., which had been ranked by the Centers for Disease Control as the nation’s most unhealthy metropolitan area. Cabell County Schools were at the center of the story, and Oliver ran headlong into Rhonda McCoy, the school district’s food-service director, who repeatedly reminded him of the USDA standards school lunch had to meet.

In “Revenge of the Lunch Lady” from The Food & Environment Reporting Network, published in partnership with The Huffington Post’s Highline, reporter Jane Black tells the story of what happened in the Cabell County school cafeterias after Oliver left town. And specifically of McCoy, who on TV had been portrayed as the embodiment of bureaucratic shortsightedness, but who went on to build a school-lunch program that is a national model — and she did it within the infamously convoluted regulatory strictures of school lunch, with no help from angel investors or celebrity chefs.

McCoy’s success involved a confluence of factors, but it couldn’t have happened without an innocuous-sounding policy called the Community Eligibility Provision. Part of the 2010 overhaul of child-nutrition policy (spearheaded by Michelle Obama), the CEP allows poor school districts to feed all children for free, regardless of their family income. It is a hugely popular policy that reduces administrative costs and headaches, allowing schools to invest more in equipment or better ingredients. It also removes the stigma of free lunch, which is a real issue for kids.

Now, though, the GOP-controlled Congress has vowed to roll back many of Obama’s school-lunch policies, and CEP is one of their top targets. Critics say it is wrong to give free lunch to families that could afford to pay for those meals. Rep. Todd Rokita, an Indiana Republican who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees school food, called CEP “perverse.”

Read the story on Highline, or at FERN.