Thanks to the continued leadership of Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the Child Nutrition Reauthorization will hit the House floor today to be voted on. This bill, while not perfect is historic since it includes the first major in School Meal funding in 44 years! The 6 cent increase us literally pennies per child but add up to at least one additional piece of fresh fruit or vegetable a week. While that seems paltry because the students in New Haven have access to MANY fresh fruits and vegetables this is not the case everywhere.
This legislation, if passed, gives the USDA oversight on ALL foods served/sold in schools, not just the reimbursable meal. This could be historic on it's own and finally be an end to the selling of JUNK FOOD in schools or at least reducing it significantly.
The childhood obesity and hunger issues our children are faced with is at an all time high and is not something school meal programs should be contributing too. While it is a fact that school meal programs serve meals that meet or exceed the dietary guidelines and schools are 'following the rules' the dietary guidelines themselves are skewed and vague. One's interpretation of them changes the scope of the food served in schools. Here is an example of what I am referring too; both these meals qualify for reimbursement from the State if Connecticut and the USDA, but they vary considerably!
1. Chicken Nuggets
Grape Juice or Applesauce
1% Chocolate Milk
2. Roasted Chicken 'on the bone'
Roasted "locally grown" sweet potatoes
Fresh "locally grown" apple or pear
Whole Grain Dinner Roll
Choice of skim or 1% WHITE milk
Option #2 does cost a little but more money but that school district does not tie up funds by turning it's operation into a 7-11 type store selling hunk food to kids. That school district relies on saving money by supporting local farms with it's purchases thus reducing overall food costs. That school district purchased over 140,000 lbs of state grown products, not to mention the tens of thousands of pounds if regionally grown products. That same school district is educating it's students that when you get your hands in the dirt and grow the food you will have a better appreciation for REAL FOOD! This lesson is hard to teach in the classroom, this is something we teach in our numerous school gardens, at our school farm or in out environmentally conscious schools. The students and school community as well as the city this program is in has rallied together to see this change go through!
The district I am describing is New Haven, CT. Under the direction of Mayor DeStefano, Superintendent Mayo and Chief Operating Officer Will Clark and with the continued support of Locals 217, 287, 884 & 3144 these changes are possible. Why? It's called TEAMWORK & HEALTHY KIDS FIRST!