Can a soda tax rescue "Healthy Schools" legislation?
Probably not. From everything we hear, the D.C. Council will deep-six a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on soft drink that Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) has proposed as a means of funding some $6 million worth of improvements to meal programs in D.C. Schools.
The money would help make breakfast universally free in all D.C. schools--including charter schools. It would also provide breakfast in classrooms in needy schools, remove the "reduced price" category from school lunch by subsidizing students who now co-pay, and kick in an extra 10 cents toward food for both breakfast and lunch and a 5-cent bonus for meals containing local produce.
The Council unanimously approved the "Healthy Schools" bill, but seems less inclined to provide money for it with the city's budget stretched. Advocates argue that such a tax would improve the health of D.C. residents and save the city millions in health care costs by driving down consumption of sugary drinks. The beverage industry, meanwhile, wants none of that, and has launched a campaign of radio ads and automated telephone calls to D.C. residents to defeat it.
The tax has been attached to the city's general budget measure, scheduled for a vote May 26.
Michelle Obama is leveraging her celebrityhood as first lady to wage a soft-gloved campaign against childhood obesity. Jamie Oliver, meanwhile, has been in this fight for years already and knows that it can take more than gentle persuasion to change the food schools serve. Here's a piece in the Washington Examiner contrasting the two approaches.
Officials in New York City are trying to make school principals pay some $6 million in uncollected school lunch fees, but so far without luck.
The city originally had given the principals until Friday to ante up, but changed course at the last minute, giving them another year to gather the money. With the city’s education budget facing large cuts, reports the New York Times, the Department of Education is trying to get principals to crack down on parents who fail to pay.
A letter sent to principals this month advised them that any unpaid fees at the end of the year would be deducted from their school budgets for the coming year.
Rachel Ray may have been Food Networks equivalent of a sex kitten, but Congress is learning she has a sharp tongue when it comes to getting better food into the nation's school. Ray spent some time on Capitol Hill recently browbeating lawmakers about the need for them to pony up with funding for the federal school meals programs.
"How could you go to any state in the union and say you are not for an extra couple of cents to eradicate hunger, to make our kids healthier, stronger, better focused?" Ray said at one point. "It doesn't make any sense that you would even have to have a long conversation about that, to me."
Ray reportedly told Congress, "Find the money now and get it done or you are going to be part of sinking our ship down the line."
You go, Rachel.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture actually promotes the idea of schools using processed government commodity products in school meals. Instead of accepting meat, grains and vegetables directly from the government and working them into meals, schools essentially trade commodity credits they earn from student participation in the federally subsidized meal program to have those raw products shipped instead of corporate processors, who turn them in cooked meal items that only need re-heating at school
Chef Ann Cooper explains how it works.
Finally, the Rodale Institute, champion of organic farming methods, details how some schools in Colorado are incorporating fresh, local products into school meals. And here are schools in Ohio doing very much the same thing.
It's a movement, people.
4 days ago