Saturday, March 6, 2010

How Do We Fix School Food?

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

President Barack Obama has proposed splitting $1 billion annually between school meals and other federally-funded food programs, an amount school food advocates calculate as something less than 20 cents per meal, or not even enough to add an apple to kids' cafeteria trays.

Last week in hearings on re-authorization of the Child Nutrition Act, the head of the School Nutrition Association, representing thousands of food service directors nationwide, asked Congress for a 35 cent hike in the federal subsidy, which currently stands at $2.68 for a fully-subsidized meal.

Now comes Ann Cooper, the "renegade lunch lady" and director of school nutrition services in Boulder, Colorado, saying what schools really need is nothing less than an extra $1 per day for all 31 million children participating in the school meal program. In an op-ed published yesterday in The Washington Post, Cooper says that $1 raise would translate into about $5.4 billion per year, but is necessary to avert a children's health crisis already in progress.

"As a nation we spend more than $260 billion annually on just two health issues: diabetes and obesity," Cooper writes. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that of the children born in 2000, one out of every three Caucasians and two out of every three African Americans and Hispanics will develop diabetes. Research shows that this may be the first generation in our nation's history to die at a younger age than their parents. Diabetes and obesity are the health-care crises of our era and, in most cases, can be prevented with healthy diet and exercise."

Cooper says the additional funds are needed to impliment new nutritional guidelines proposed by the Institute of Medicine that call for more fruits and vegetables, and more whole grains and less starchy foods, in school menus. Meanwhile, at her blog, Cooper has started a letter writing campaignto lobby Congress for the extra $1 per day. You can go there for a samply letter. She suggests you include something about your personal experiences with school meals. Boy, I'd love to see those letters.

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