Congress Passes Bill to Improve School Lunches
Yesterday, the House passed the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, a $4.5 Billion piece of legislation aimed at cleaning up school lunches. Along with Michelle Obama who championed the bill as part of her Let's Move campaign, and parents all over America, I felt hope for the first time in a long time. My children's new school has no cafeteria. When I first learned that I would be making brown bag lunches for my kids every day, I was bummed. I'll admit it. Then I realized that my children's lunch options would actually be improving as a result of not having the hot lunch. The last two schools my kids attended had cafeterias. Although the amount of choices available was different, both offered incredibly unhealthy foods most days: a rotating roster of yellow foods like chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and even French toast sticks. And in Ohio, as if the menu offerings weren't bad enough, kids could bring in change to purchase Doritos, Oreos, and Pringles from the snack moms. That money went to the PTO. Those were the lunch options in well-funded school districts. I can't even begin to imagine how awful the menu would be at poorer schools. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act does a few things:
- it gives the Secretary of Agriculture the power to set new nutrition standards for foods sold in schools, including items in vending machines. Soon we'll see more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain offerings.
- Increases (by six cents a meal!) the federal reimbursement for school lunches to help cover the costs of new nutrition requirements. It also allows the 100,000 children on Medicaid to qualify for free meals automatically without the need of extra forms and approvals. Unfortunately, this was funded by taking money out of the food stamp budget.
- Encourages the sourcing of school food from local farms.