President Obama And The Changing Face Of School Lunches

On Monday, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a $4.5 billion expansion of the school lunch program.  “We’ve seen the connection between what kids eat and how well they perform in school,” he said, speaking at Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Northwest Washington. “We need to make sure our kids have the energy and capacity to go toe-to-toe with their peers.”

What the bill will do: (see the fact sheet for a more detailed report)

  • Improve school lunches: check out a proposed sample menu.
  • Give the USDA authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in and out of the cafeteria during the school day, including vending machines, the a la carte lunch lines, and school stores.
  • Allow eligible students in high poverty communities greater meal access.
  • Help communities create school gardens, local farm-to-school networks, and ensure greater use of local foods used in the school.
  • Sets basic guidelines for school wellness policies including nutritional education and physical activity.
  • Provide additional funding to schools by increasing the federal reimbursement rate for no-cost school lunches by six cents a meal.
  • Increase the number of eligible children enrolled in school meal programs by approximately 115,000 students.

Not surprisingly the only glitch is funding.  The bill, while it did gain bipartisan support in the Senate, will be partially funded as a result of food stamp reduction.  As Obama explained, “It’s also important to note that while this bill is fully paid for, it won’t add a dime to the deficit, some of the funding comes from rolling back a temporary increase in food stamp benefits –- or SNAP as it’s now called -– starting in the fall of 2013.  I know a number of members of Congress have expressed concerns about this offset being included in the bill, and I’m committed to working with them to restore these funds in the future.”

Until then we can be thankful Obama is in the good graces of his wife.  Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move campaign is what inspired the bill and she undoubtedly had a great deal to do with its enactment.  This was evident when Obama declared, “not only am I very proud of the bill, but had I not been able to get this passed, I would be sleeping on the couch.”



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