This is the big one, folks; the one we’ve been waiting for. Yesterday the House approved a landmark federal child nutrition bill that would boost spending on child nutrition $4.5 billion over 10 years and raise federal reimbursements for school lunches more than the inflation rate for the first time since 1973 (according to the Washington Post). As written, the bill would enable more poor children to receive free meals at school, would raise the nutritional quality of cafeteria fare, and would reduce the junk food and sugary beverages sold in school vending machines.
The bill cleared the Senate over the summer; with yesterday’s House approval it is heading to President Obama.
The bill has been a major priority of the president and Mrs. Obama, as well as countless child health and nutrition advocates. No one is claiming that it is perfect in its current form — some activists say that it will cut money out of some programs to help poor kids, and many school districts don’t know how they will pay for the new mandates — but it represents a big step forward in improving kids’ nutrition. Among other changes, it would set nutritional standards for foods sold anywhere at the school (not just at the lunch counter), effectively limiting what vending machines and snack bars can offer.
Perhaps most noteworthy is the increase in the federal reimbursement rate, which is designed to help pay for the higher cost of more nutritious meals. Will it make a difference? We’ll be watching our friends like Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution, Chef Ann Cooper a.k.a. The Renegade Lunch Lady, Time for Lunch at Slow Food USA, Bettina Siegel at The Lunch Tray, Obama Foodarama, and all of our friends who do such a great job at keeping us informed about the state of school lunches.
Happy Friday to all!