Speaking yesterday at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered a full-throated defense of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act‘s school meal standards, the nutritional improvements which are currently at risk of being rolled back in Congress.
Joined at the event by Dr. Sandra Hassink, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and by Jessica Donze Black, head of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts, Vilsack movingly described how, as the son of a drug- and alcohol-addicted adoptive mother, he was shamed for being overweight which in turn impacted his performance in school. He then forcefully addressed each of the arguments that have been put forth to justify school nutrition roll-backs, such as allegedly increased plate waste and declining student participation in the meal program.
Of particular note was Vilsack’s announcement of an additional $8 million in federal funding for schools to assist with professional training as well as implementation of the “Smarter Lunchroom” techniques, which are proven to nudge kids into making healthier choices. That’s good news, of course, but in response to a reporter’s question, Vilsack also admitted that a Congressional increase for school meal reimbursement was likely “not in the cards.”
I live-tweeted the event yesterday and you can follow the entire Twitter conversation by searching the hashtag #HealthierNextGen. The University of California’s UC Food Observer also has a good recap of the event, as does USA Today. And you can watch the entire webcast here.
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