In the aftermath of yesterday’s passage by the House of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, it’s worth reflecting for a moment on what has been achieved. With all the talk here and elsewhere about the (in)adequacy of the six-cents-per-meal funding increase, and concern about using food stamp dollars to fund the law, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there is much in this legislation to feel very good about:
Among other things, the legislation (which will presumably be signed into law shortly), will:
- increase the number of children in the national school food program. As discussed here earlier this week, many hungry and/or economically disadvantaged kids who qualify for free or reduced price meals are not currently receiving them, and the new law should help remedy that problem in a variety of ways;
- provide funding for state and local projects to address childhood hunger and promote food security for low-income children;
- help communities establish farm to school networks, create school gardens and use more local foods in cafeterias with $40 million in mandatory funding;
- strengthen school wellness policies by updating existing requirements, increasing transparency, providing opportunities for community involvement, and compliance measurements;
- support breastfeeding for low-income women who take advantage of WIC benefits;
- establish professional standards and training opportunities for school food service providers;
- improve food safety requirements for school meals;
- remove junk food from schools by applying nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. (I need more information on this point — what the standards will be and to what food they will apply. I’ll report back here.);
- improve the quality of school meals by providing an additional six cents per meal, the first funding increase in over 30 years.
Turning to that last point, the six cents increase, it remains to be seen what can be achieved by school districts with the additional funding. I did look skeptically this morning at this graphic from the New York Times (apparently based on data from the Center for Science in the Public Interest) purporting to show how a school meal will change under the new law:
How the nutrition bill would change a meal.
Fried chicken patty
Canned green beans
Package of snack cakes (from vending machine)
Barbecued chicken patty
Whole grain roll
Locally grown carrots
1 percent milk
I hope my skepticism is misplaced. If that transformation really can be achieved, there will be joy in the land. Stay tuned.