Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved its bill to update child nutrition programs (the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act). The bill will now go to the Senate floor at a date to be determined, no earlier than mid-April.
The committee made no major changes, though we were excited to see Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas increase funding for Farm to School programs to $40 million (inching closer to our goal of $50 million over five years). The bill also strengthens nutrition standards for all the food sold at school, effectively kicking junk food out of school vending machines. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio passed an amendment for an organic food pilot program to get more organic food into school meals, though the amendment doesn’t yet have funding.
Overall, the bill invests $500 million per year in child nutrition programs, which falls short of the $1 billion per year proposed by President Obama in order to help schools serve healthier food. Senator Lincoln was hopeful about funding, however, saying:
“I am committed to working to identify additional resources for this legislation…. After reporting this bill I look forward to working with my colleague Senator Baucus and the leadership in the Senate to identify additional funding.”
Funding for healthier food will be paid for by offsets in other parts of the federal budget. Currently, the Child Nutrition bill makes a cut to conservation programs, which is a cut that Slow Food USA does not support – particularly when a much larger portion of the budget goes to farm subsidies that support unhealthy processed foods.
On the same day that the committee approved the bill, Slow Food USA’s Time for Lunch Campaign surpassed its goal of sending 100,000 letters and petition signatures to Congress. The momentum’s still growing — click here to learn how you can help out.