By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director
When it comes down to it, one of the biggest indicators of an administration's priorities is where it spends money. And for the first time in my memory, we have an administration that is prioritizing children's health. The budget that President Obama presented today makes school food and school environments real priorities.Yes, this budget is brutal. Yes, cuts are everywhere. And no, we're not going to go back to the moon. However, this presidential budget shows at least two significant line items that will make a difference in health of students.
Healthy School Food
This is a critical year in the movement for healthy school food, and President Obama's budget allocates significant and much-needed resources to that effort. The Child Nutrition Act is up for reauthorization, and we've been joining advocates nationwide in speaking up for increased federal funding for better school food -- about a dollar per meal more than schools currently receive. The place to start is the budget.
It looks like the president has kept his commitment to making the largest ever increase to the Child Nutrition Program, dedicating $10 billion over 10 years for a strong Child Nutrition and WIC reauthorization.While this is good news for school food, especially given the cuts and spending freezes we're seeing elsewhere - it's still not enough to solve all deficiencies with school meals. The truth of the matter is that this will only account for maybe 20 cents more per meal. So the trick now is to not only make sure this money isn't whittled away, but also find even more.
Healthy School Environments
As long as I can remember, school environmental programs have been viewed as boutique programs for local schools to adopt. And while the EPA has been a great resource in helping schools get the information they need, a dramatically under-funded voluntary program can only help so much. The reality is that without help from the Dep.t of Education, the EPA is limited in what it can do.
With this budget, we see that for the first time resources may be directed to promoting a "healthier school environment" and to integrate EPA and DoE resources. Take a look at page 10:
(FY 2011 PB: $6.3M, FY 2010 Enacted: $0.1M, FY 2011 Change: +$6.2M)
- Requests a $6.2 million increase to create healthier school environments for all children.
- EPA will co-lead an interagency effort in integrating existing school programs including asthma, indoor air quality, chemical clean out, green practices and enhanced use of integrated pest management.
- Promotes safe handling and management of PCB-containing caulk in schools and build
- necessary regional technical support and outreach to effectively implement site-specific cleanup and disposal plans. Assesses the impacts of non-compliance with existing environmental laws on health risks in schools.
- Increases technical assistance on voluntary Energy Independence Security Act (EISA) school siting and environmental health guidelines.