Those of you following my Twitter and Facebook feeds know that on Wednesday I was watching with great interest the House Education and Workforce Committee‘s Congressional hearing on the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR).
To bring everyone up to speed, this year marks the every-five-year funding of federal child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program. The 2010 CNR saw the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), the landmark legislation which gave school meals their first major nutritional overhaul in decades. But this year, the HHFKA’s gains are threatened as the School Nutrition Association (SNA), which supported the law in 2010, now seeks to roll back some of its most important nutritional standards.
For those who really want to get into the weeds, here’s a complete video of the hearing:
For those who want the recap, school food reformer Dana Woldow had this piece in yesterday’s Beyond Chron, which is highly critical of SNA President Julia Bauscher’s testimony at the hearing.
Woldow points out, as I did on Twitter, that the SNA completely squandered its opportunity to seek more funding from Congress to finance healthier school meals, instead pushing hard for a weakening of nutritional standards. In doing so, the SNA confirmed my suspicion (Is the School Nutrition Association’s Request for More School Funding a Priority — or a Ploy? ) that its “ask” for an additional 35 cents per child per meal was never going to be a real priority for the organization.
Other random impressions from the hearing:
1. I had not been aware of Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe’s work surrounding the healthier school meal standards. She did a great job testifying at the hearing and is officially my new girl crush.
2. At the other end of the spectrum, I was stunned by Rep. Glenn Grothman’s (R-WI) cluelessness about the hard realities of some Americans’ lives.
First, he seemed incapable of wrapping his head around the idea that America could have a problem with childhood hunger and childhood obesity, repeatedly asking those testifying for historical data on the height and weight of five year olds to help explain this mystery. He mused aloud, “Some of us kind of wonder. . . . we talk about this obesity epidemic and then we say we have this problem with all these people are [sic] hungry. At first blush it’s kind of contradictory.” McAuliffe quickly set him straight, pointing out that obesity, particularly in food deserts, can be as much a sign of malnutrition as being underweight.
Grothman, who seems to have wandered out of 1955 suburbia, also seemed perplexed that kids aren’t just sitting down to family meals with Mom and Dad instead of relying on schools for nutrition. In this meandering statement, he asked:
I’ll give you another thing to think about. A while back I read something dealing with some of these food programs and that we’re kinda, it used to be it was important for kids to sit around the dinner table at night, I think it’s an important thing to sit around the breakfast table in the morning. As time goes on it becomes more, where we’re sending a message to parents that it’s more of a government’s concern than their concern. Does that concern you at all, insofar as you know were kind of taking away a role that’s been the most basic role of parents probably throughout all of history and kind of we’re kinda saying providing breakfast for your kids, dinner for your kids, during the summer period. We’re beginning to change the nature of life and we’re making it more of a government thing than a family thing. Does that —
At this point, Mr. Grothman’s time (mercifully) was cut off.
3. SNA President Bauscher kept emphasizing the need to supply kids with white flour “regional favorites,” like biscuits in the South and white flour tortillas in the Southwest, as a justification for significantly weakening the current whole grain standard. But any home cook knows that it’s entirely possible to make an acceptable whole-grain version of those foods using half white flour and half white whole wheat. If manufacturers need more time to get up to speed, then maybe we need to relax the standard for short time until they catch up. But SNA’s “baby with the bathwater” approach is so extreme, it does make me wonder if Woldow is right when she speculates that SNA’s corporate sponsors are actually behind this whole grain request.
On a related note, Mission Readiness, the nonpartisan group of retired military leaders, wrote an excellent Reuters editorial in anticipation of this week’s CNR hearing. It’s a full-throated defense of healthier school food and well worth a read.
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