Monday, August 9, 2010

An Update on School Lunches and the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization

Here’s some news that might make you happier to send your kids to school every day. On August 5, 2010 the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry passed the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.” This legislation hopes to improve nutritional quality of meals in schools, promote health, and address childhood obesity. The passage of this act takes us one step closer to reauthorizing the current child nutrition legislation that is set to expire on September 30, 2010.

The move by the Senate committee follows an August 15 vote on the House side of Congress led by Congressman George Miller (D-CA). The House Education and Labor Committee passed similar bipartisan legislation, the “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” to improve federal nutrition programs for children and their schools.

Both the Senate and House bills aim to help assist schools in meeting meal requirements proposed by the Institute of Medicine. The House bill specifically addresses increasing the reimbursement rate for lunch by 6 cents per meal -- the first real increase in over 30 years! Both pieces of legislation aim to increase total nutrition spending to about 4.5 billion over the next ten years.

Fresh, local food is a theme that runs through both bills. The House bill specifically hopes to connect more children to healthy produce from local farms by helping communities establish local farm to school networks, develop gardens and use more local foods in school cafeterias. Local Food Hub works to make that a reality every day by helping to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to local schools. In fact, we provide fresh, local food to 45 schools in the Charlottesville-Albemarle region!

With the time frame for the current legislation set to run out by September 30, 2010, Michelle Obama has made her opinion clear that this needs to get signed into law. “Right now, our country has a major opportunity to make our schools and our children healthier. It's an opportunity we haven't seen in years, and one that is too important to let pass by.” Michelle Obama urged both sides of Congress to move this piece of legislation to the floor to get it passed.

What’s next for child nutrition? Now that both bills have been passed out of their committees, it is time to take this legislation to the floor of Congress for a vote. If both the Senate and House can agree on one piece of legislation, the hope is that President Obama can have this signed into law before the old law expires in September.

If you believe this is important, make sure to call or write to your representatives in Congress to let them know what you think!

This post was researched and written by our summer intern, Tricia.  Thanks, Tricia!

image credit: WBUR/Creative Commons

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