By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director
NCL’s Courtney Brein – the Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition fellow – is working day and night with consumer colleagues to support reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. The bill is before the Senate as we speak, and the House of Representatives will take up the issue while or shortly after the Senate takes action.
The legislation gives the Agriculture Department new powers to set long overdue nutritional standards for any food sold on school grounds, with an effort to phase out those foods that contribute to childhood obesity: sweetened drinks and high-fat, high-sodium snacks.
The bill expands use of locally grown or raised foods, supports school gardens and use of organic food. It will also increase funding for programs to improve the health and nutrition of our kids who eat school lunches each day. The President has requested an additional $10 billion over the next decade for child nutrition.
Schools cannot make kids fit or healthy all by themselves. But they can set the parameters for what makes a healthy meal. Because The Act is reauthorized only once every five years, this is an important opportunity to shape the future of school food, particularly in light of First Lady Michelle Obama’s call to end childhood obesity.
The annual survey of the School Nutrition Association found that “although rising food, labor, and indirect costs are significant challenges for school nutrition programs, healthy food and beverage items continue to increase in popularity and participation is increasing; nearly half of respondents report increased overall lunch and breakfast average daily participation in the 2007-2008 school year.”
We should help to support the movement to create meals – breakfast and lunch at school are sometimes the only meals a child will eat during the day – where fresh, healthy menus are the norm and all children have access to comprehensive nutrition education that instills in them an understanding of what it means to exercise, eat healthy foods, and live healthy lifestyles. We urge members of Congress to support the Child Nutrition Act.