Changing the Way America’s Schoolchildren Eat

A child living in poverty is quite often  a hungry child who struggles to concentrate in school. Every five years Congress reviews and reauthorizes the federal Child Nutrition Program and they are currently reviewing the federal guidelines and funding.

This year we have a chance to make some improvements to the programs and nutrition guidelines in House Resolution 5504. It is also called the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act. It is currently in the US House and it affects the health and well being of millions of American school children. Passage of the bill would have a profound affect on the health and learning ability of the poorest children in the nation.In 2008 over 30 million American children relied on their schools to eat. Healthy and adequate nutrition is often in short supply in families struggling with poverty. Schools have long provided help for parents unable to feed their children. School lunch and breakfast programs across the nation feed millions of kids every day who would go hungry otherwise.

The meals served in schools to poor children is often the only meal they eat all day. Often school lunch meals are bid out and awarded to the lowest bidders without adequate nutrition in mind.

HR.. 5504 provides additional meals for children spending over 8 hours in daycare or after school programs. It also provides more adequate food during summer and expands summer food programs to more rural areas. The Senate version of the bill (S.3307)  that passed on August 5, 2010 provides 50 million dollars in additional funding. The House bill has made it out of committee but they have  not yet taken up the bill. The bill would also cross reference state database systems for children on CHIP without requiring a separate application process in order to make sure each child in need has the opportunity to eat.

The bill mandates a larger variety of more nutritious meals fed to children. It expands the school breakfast program. Currently meals served in school cafeterias often don’t meet adequate nutrition guidelines.  Our school lunch programs should not just provide a meal to fill a stomach but a nutritious meal that sustains their attention, learning and healthy growth.The reimbursement rate for school districts will be increased and allow for more nutritious meals and meet the nutritional standards set forth by the Institute of Medicine in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control. The nutrition guidelines include setting standards for a’ la carte lines and vending machines.

The bill will also set a standard for schools partnering with community farms, start school gardens and promote the use of local food in school cafeterias.Citizens interested in this bill are encouraged to call their Representative and voice their support of H.R.  5504

 HR 5504 Summary

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