Underfunded School Lunch Programs Create Unhealthy Kids

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.

Image Credit: thenewgreenblog.com


William C
William C11 months ago


W. C
W. C12 months ago

Thank you.

Hanan W.
Hana W8 years ago

You might be amazed to see how junk food affects the behavior of children. I taught at a middle school in Maryland. The lunch provided by the school was primarily carbohydrates and processed food. However, few children ate those lunches. Instead, they used their money to buy candy, soda, and other junk food from vending machines. When they returned to class after consuming junk food lunches, they were uncontrollable.

Chris Owen
Chris Owen8 years ago

The Funds for kids food is not wasted in IRAQ it is wasted on the ILLEGALS kids that are in public schools and whose parents are not paying TAXES whether they have a job or are getting welfare benefits.

We have to have a TAX income to support the funds that are going out where ever they end up if ILLEGALS do not pay TAXES where does the money come from for the IRAQ war or AT HOME School lunches............?

FEED The Children ministry, Christians Children's Fund, These industries need to stop feeding Ethiopia and other 3rd world continents and take care of the children here in the USA. That is where the money goes actually!!!!

Some of these ads that are filmed look like the children in them are right here in the USA not over seas as the ads make you believe.

They wont do that feeling responsible for taking a 3rd world country and making the inhabitants "Civilized" to the point where the population can not feed them selves any more.

FEED a man and he eats for a day, TEACH a man to fish and he can feed himself, SPOIL a man and you have a servant/slave for life!

William Shakespeare
Mrs Shakespeare8 years ago

You know why your kids have to eat crap? Because the money that was supposed to buy them real food was wasted in Iraq. The end.

Mary B.
May Brown8 years ago

Kids will be healthier if they learn healthy eating habits as a child, and it can't be expected that all parents will change their already formed diets for the sake of their children. Besides, if the school lunches are tastier, then maybe more kids will buy school lunches, insuring that eating healthy is an idea spread to more children.

Robert S.
Robert S8 years ago

I work in a puplic school that not only serves a well balanced lunch, (fresh fruits included) but breakfast as well. They also provide snacks for after school "Latch Key". I'm sure that it costs way over a dollar a day.

Beth B.
Beth Buczynski8 years ago

Good point Sofie M. But what about when parents can't afford quality foods, or when they don't know the benefits of choosing an apple over a pop tart? Should those kids lose out on a chance for one healthy meal?

GinsburgerVogel S.
Sophie R8 years ago

And when the lunch boxes cannot contain enough healthy foods ???
Please, let the kids have veggies and fruits from the money YOU give to uncle Sam. They are worth it. Independance is not the key to health when no money is in your purse anymore.
Rents, too, need to be paid for so that your kids can sleep in a bedroom.
Kids are a treasure to be protected, nurtured, cared for in a nation. So is their food.

Sofie M.
Sofie M.8 years ago

Whatever happened to lunch boxes, with a sandwich, apple, couple cookies, thermos of milk -- made at home? The schools' focus needs to stay on educating the children, not feeding them. This is the parents' responsibility.