Last week Congress approved a child nutrition bill that will make a significant investment in the National School Lunch program. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will increase health choices in school cafeterias across the country. This has ignited a discussion across the country and there are few things more entertaining for media than a debate about schools and food. My favorite headline was from the Boston Herald: “Hold the brownies! Bill could limit bake sales.” The lead-in was spectacular: “Don’t touch my brownies! A child nutrition bill on its way to President Barack Obama – and championed by the first lady – gives the government power to limit school bake sales and other fundraisers that health advocates say sometimes replace wholesome meals in the lunchroom …” Here’s another quote: “This could be a real train wreck for school districts,” Lucy Gettman of the National School Boards Association said Friday, a day after the House cleared the bill. “The federal government should not be in the business of regulating this kind of activity at the local level.”
Now I like my brownies and the occasional bake sale. However, I keep hearing John Stossel, former ABC News anchor and current Fox Business host, ranting, “Give me a break!” over and over in my head. This is a groundbreaking piece of bipartisan legislation that will significantly improve the quality of meals that children receive at school and will play an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood obesity. I give the First Lady and the Let’s Move! initiative three cheers. As a parent, how could I stand by and not support a program that provides children across the country access to nutritious food to learn and grow to fulfill their potential?
Want to know the real train wreck? Obesity rates, especially among children and adolescents, have steadily climbed since the early 1990s. Today, many children eat two of three meals at school. School districts are experiencing dwindling resources and are often challenged to feed a large student population with little funding, yet they are tasked with serving food that is affordable, nutritious and appealing to students. Have you been to a school cafeteria lately? Care to name what is actually on the lunch tray?
Here’s something the media can sink its teeth into: The Hunger-Free Kids Act will help support local programs similar to the EatWell@School cooking competition hosted by LiveWell Colorado. This nine-week healthy cooking competition for Denver Public Schools high schools has challenged students to take on creating healthy school meals, as well as providing cooking and nutrition skills that will last a lifetime. The EatWell@School Cooking Competition with Denver Public Schools high school students seeks to raise awareness of the importance of healthy eating at school. The competition will culminate today with a fundraising luncheon, to honor the student competitors and raise funds for LiveWell Colorado’s ongoing mission of promoting healthy eating and active living. I can’t wait to enjoy Martin Luther King Jr. Early College’s winning meal of parmesan and herb crusted chicken with creamy pesto spaghetti and stuffed tomato. YUM!
Will the Hunger-Free Kids Act make a difference? You betcha’!