Friday, July 16, 2010

School Meal Reauthorization Passes House Committee

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

A House version of the bill to re-authorize the federal Child Nutrition Act, which funds school meal programs, passed overwhelmingly in committee yesterday, including $8 billion in new funding over 10 years, about a 10-cent boost for each school lunch served.

The bill would expand the number of children who receive free meals from the government but perhaps more importantly would give the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to establish standards for foods served outside the cafeteria--such as in vending machines--and remove junk foods from schools.

Among other things, the bill as amended includes pilot programs for organic and vegan foods. A Senate committee version of the re-authorization provides a little more than half as much in new funding. Either way, critics complain that what Congress is proposing as a boost for school meals isn't nearly enough, a won't even put an apple on kids' cafeteria trays.

The re-authorization has been delayed to the point that some are now wondering whether Congress will manage to reconcile the two versions of the bill and pass something because the current session ends. The Child Nutrition Act did not make it onto the Senate leadership's short list of priorities. If Congress doesn't pass the re-authorization this year, the whole process would have to start over again next year with a new and possibly much more conservative Congress.

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