Snap Fact #175

President Obama signs the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act!
However history judges the 535 men and women in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate during the two year period of 2009 and 2010, one thing is certain: The 111th Congress made more law affecting more Americans since the “Great Society” legislation of the 1960s. 

President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act on December 13th, 2010. The passage marked an important victory for Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign. The $4.5 billion bill received criticism from Republicans who opposed increased spending on social programs and from Democrats who objected that funding was approved at the expense of the food stamp program. Nonetheless the bill was passed by the Senate in a unanimous vote and received enough bipartisan support to pass in a last minute push by the House. 

In his signing speech, President Obama explained: "It's also important to note that while this bill is fully paid for, it won't add a dime to the deficit, some of the funding comes from rolling back a temporary increase in food stamp benefits starting in the fall of 2013. I know a number of members of Congress have expressed concerns about this offset being included in the bill, and I'm committed to working with them to restore these funds in the future."

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 represents a major step forward in our nation’s effort to provide all children with healthy food in schools. Over 31 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and children consume a third to a half of their daily calories at schools. With one out of every three children in America considered overweight or obese, schools must ensure school foods are healthy. This law makes significant improvements to school nutrition and other child nutrition programs to provide children with more nutritious food options and teach children healthy habits that can last a lifetime. 

It requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to set nutrition standards for all foods sold on school campuses at any time during the day – not only in cafeterias but also through vending machines, school stores, fund-raisers, and more.
The White House released a before and after example of a school menu to demonstrate the effect of the new legislation. Meals such as cheese pizza and tater tots were replaced with whole-wheat cheese pizza and baked sweet potato fries.

The difference may not be huge, but it's an important first step in the right direction. While the standards are still going through the approvals process, it is expected that fruit and yogurt cups will replace cookies and candy, and fruit juice, iced tea and milk will replace soda.

The bill will make more funds available by requiring schools to charge more per meal to students who can afford it. It will also require the USDA to take a closer look at the expenses that schools list under meal preparation. Janitorial services and other maintenance costs are often disproportionately charged to the meal program because school administrators see meal reimbursements as a catch-all opportunity to fund other programs. If administrators are no longer able to charge unrelated expenses to the meal program, more funds will be freed up for healthy food as well. 

These programs encourage schools to source ingredients from local farms, and create opportunities for children to learn about where their food comes from and how it grows. It's important for parents, teachers and administrators to understand that supporting children's health is a total package: we need to make healthy options available to them, we need to be good examples ourselves, and we need to help them make the connections between the health of the land, the health of their food and the health of their body, mind and spirit. 

Needless to say, this effort which is to the benefit of society as a whole as well as the individual children that it touches has run into the Republican intransigence as the new Congress replaced the old. Imagine that they shout that the President and Mrs. Obama are taking away our liberties by working to educate children to make better choices in their culinary decisions. Do you want the next administration to bring back Colas and greasy fries as the best choices our children have for school lunches? There is no doubt that a 113th Republican Congress will produce such a result.