Whew: school is out for summer! And for many of us, one of the (many) great things about summer is that we don’t have to think about what to send for school lunch. Well, maybe not all of us. Just as school ended for most students around the country, members of Congress are starting to work on the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.
This law provides the funding and guidance for the Federal child nutrition programs, to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods. Every day, more than 30 million children participate in these programs, eating lunch and breakfast at school. Every five years, Congress reviews the child nutrition programs through the reauthorization process, which provides an important opportunity to improve and strengthen these programs. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 is set to expire on September 30, 2009.
Earlier this month, Chicago Tribune reporter Monica Eng wrote about her impressions of school lunch in Chicago. Eng wrote a lot about nachos; she also shared some important information about the challenges that school districts face in running their school meal programs. Schools have a dwindling number of working kitchens, minimally trained labor and -- most significantly -- the current level of funding for the national school lunch program is insufficient to cover the full costs of serving a school meal that meets the USDA nutrition standards that school must follow.
Eng writes, “Districts are still given only $2.57 to pay for each meal. After covering labor, overhead, and equipment, that leaves only about $1 for food.”
With this situation in mind, HSC is urging members of Congress to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act with more money for better food. Increased funding will allow school food service operations to allocate more of their meal budgets to the food ingredients, so that they can include more fresh fruit and vegetables, more whole grains and fewer high fat, high sodium, highly processed foods. HSC is also calling on the USDA to improve the quality and variety of the food available to schools through the USDA Foods (commodities) program so that more fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are available for schools to choose from.
Get involved now by supporting a strong and well-funded Child Nutrition Act!