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Score one for school lunch: Our senators unanimously passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, legislation that would provide $4.5 billion over the next 10 years to make school food healthier and to feed more low-income kids. Provisions include making sure foods are made with healthier ingredients and eliminating candy bars and sugary beverages from vending machines.
In a statement, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest praised the Senate’s action. “The Senate bill changes the school food landscape in ways that are all positive,” Michael F. Jacobson said. “Put simply, it will get junk food out of, and put more healthy food into, America's schools. It preserves the free and reduced-cost meals that many families depend on in an economic downturn. And it supports farmers by improving farm-to-school programs. Chairman Blanche Lincoln and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss deserve credit for forging a bipartisan agreement on the bill and for fighting to secure a vote despite a crowded Senate schedule.”
My friend Andrea Early, a mom and school nutrition program director at Harrisonburg City Schools in Virginia, is optimistic about the bill. “We’re talking about healthier food options, which is wonderful,” she says. Still, she worries that the funding may not go far enough. The bill will add about 6 cents to the school's budget for each meal, and as she points out, 6 cents doesn’t buy a whole apple.
Still, as someone who’s already made healthy changes to her own school district’s menus -- like making mac and cheese with whole grain pasta, and adding raw squash sticks to cups of carrot sticks -- she knows it can be done, and that kids will (eventually) eat better food when it’s offered to them.
“A lot of school nutrition directors are ahead of the curve, but many haven’t had the opportunity to make some of those changes, or have been resistant,” says Early. “This will put everyone on a more level playing field.”
Will this bill’s bipartisan support -- not to mention its championing by first lady Michelle Obama -- now help it get through the House? I hope so. After all, what’s not to like about a bill that will put food in the bellies of more hungry kids, and make all the food in our kids’ schools -- from hot lunches to a la carte offerings to vending machine snacks -- more nutritious? That effort gets an A+ from this mom.
How healthy is your kid's school lunch? Chime in below!
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