Friday, 19 March 2010

Child Nutrition Reauthorization

You have probably already been enjoying the Fed Up With Lunch blog, a photographic journal of a year of school meals. If you think school lunch should be better, a lot depends on Child Nutrition Reauthorization in Congress this Spring. Here is a sampling of blog and new media coverage.

Tom Philpott at Grist:
Obama's proposed increase would boost the current daily per-lunch outlay by less than 20 cents -- not enough to buy an extra apple a day for every kid.

Now Blanche Lincoln (D.-Ark), the agribiz-friendly chair of the Senate Ag committee, has come out with her draft of the School Lunch Reauthorization Act. She may be calling it the "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act," but what she proposes doing is slashing Obama's proposed increase by more than half, to $4.5 billion over ten years.

If Obama can't spare an extra two dimes per day per kid to spend on ingredients, Lincoln won't even fork over a single extra dime. If Obama's proposal wouldn't even net an extra apple a day, Lincoln's would have trouble procuring a single stick of gum -- not that school kids need any more sugar.

And it gets worse. Because of Congress' "pay-as-you-go" rules, Lincoln has to balance her modest increase with cuts in other agricultural spending. Naturally, she has chosen to target conservation, hunger, and even other school-lunch programs -- leaving commodity payments, beloved of her state's large-scale cotton farmers, intact.
Nutritionist Julie Negrin, M.S., writes at the daily table:
It’s bewildering to me why the government is hemming and hawing over how much money they should invest in CNR. It could be as low as a half a billion (which sounds like a lot but divide that by five years and millions of schools) and as much as $4 billion (which would be a miracle). When they give so little for each child’s school lunch, how can the school staff be expected to produce healthy, balanced meals for growing children? Even the most talented chefs I know would have a hard time coming up with a well-rounded meal appropriate for children if they only had a couple of bucks to spend per person. And had little to no kitchen equipment. And were given low-quality ingredients.
In the new online magazine Agriculture from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Craig Cox takes the Lincoln bill to task for pitting child nutrition against conservation programs.
In a critical miscalculation, she would cap the amount of money spent on the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to pay for the nutrition increase. EQIP, a program chronically underfunded and repeatedly targeted for cuts, helps ensure cleaner water, soil and air for the children in rural communities.

The senator would be much smarter to look to the bloated farm subsidy program.

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