The National School Lunch Program was created in 1946 with the intention of safeguarding the health and well being of American children, however in the sixty years since it’s inception, the program has done less and less to provide at least one healthy meal a day for the nation’s youth.
While millions of families struggle to purchase healthy foods with their limited income, and childhood obesity and diabetes are growing at an alarming rate, Congress has systematically reduced funding for school lunches, until today’s schools have only $1 per child to buy ingredients.
Although school nutrition directors and cafeteria managers try their best to make this dollar count, it is simply impossible for them to provide healthy, fresh, tasty food with this type of budgetary restriction.
This lack of funding has forced many schools to take part in the Department of Agriculture’s commodities program for costly items such as meat and cheese. The program markets surplus food produced by the farmers and ranchers.
While this might seem like a cost effective strategy, it has proved disastrous in many cases, not the least of which occured in January of 2008 when one of the biggest beef suppliers for the National School Lunch Program was caught forcing cows that were ill and couldn’t walk into its slaughterhouse (USA Today).
Many struggling schools have also allowed vending machines selling soda, candy and high fat snacks into their hallways, and fast food sales in their cafeterias as a way to make some extra revenue. Children are being told to eat healthy in class, and then bombarded with unhealthy or low quality options at every turn.
The Child Nutrition Act is a federal law that comes up for reauthorization in Congress every five years. It governs the school meal programs, which feed more than 31 million children every school day. Although it was scheduled for September 2009, the vote to address school lunch issues has been moved to early 2010, which means that there is still time to take action on this important piece of legislation.
Slow Food USA, an educational non-profit with the goal of creating a cleaner, more healthy food supply is spearheading a campaign called “Time for Lunch” which is telling Congress that kids need healthy school lunches. Slow Food’s main policy goals are more money per child per day spent on food, as well as mandatory money for farm to school programs.
Visit the campaign’s website to learn how you can get involved in creating a healthier and more productive school lunch program for your children. Read the School Lunch Fact Sheet and call on Congress to approve the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This and other education issues will also be covered in our new Education Channel, launching next week. Watch for it.
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