Yesterday, the House Committee on Education and Labor, which is tasked with updating the National School Lunch Program, finally passed its Child Nutrition bill (H.R. 5504) by a bipartisan vote of 32 to 13. The bill proposes to establish healthier nutrition standards for school meals, to kick junk food out of school vending machines, and to help schools connect with local farms and plant school gardens. It would also provide a very modest increase (six cents) to the funding schools receive to serve each lunch ($2.68, about a dollar of which goes to ingredients).
While we’re glad to see progress being made, six cents isn’t going to transform a program that’s failing to serve healthy food in the midst of a child obesity crisis.
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The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a similar Child Nutrition bill in March. Now that both bills are out of committee, we’re waiting on Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule both the bills for floor debate and pass them as quickly as possible. Child Nutrition programs were supposed to be updated last year, and are currently on a one-year temporary extension. The current legislation expires on September 30, so if House and Senate leaders don’t move quickly, we may see another one-year delay – which means another year of neglecting the health of America’s children.