The Child Nutrition Act
This spring, both the Senate Agriculture Committee and the House Education and Workforce Committee conducted hearings on the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. This legislation governs both the federal school lunch programs, which serve up to 29 million students daily, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program that provides supplemental food to 7 million low income mothers and their children. The House Education and Workforce Committee plans to conduct another hearing in October on USDA food commodities to the school lunch program, while a hearing on obesity was canceled. The Weston A. Price Foundation submitted written testimony to both Committees on the programs. (Click here to see our testimony and recommendations.)
During this process we met with over 70 staff of the Senators and Representatives who serve on the two committees, as well as with other interested organizations. Our purpose is to introduce the Foundation to the staff, review our recommendations and offer our services on food and nutrition policy. We will continue to meet with appropriate staff throughout the entire reauthorization process.
Several bills have been introduced to amend the Child Nutrition Act. On the Senate side, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced two child nutrition bills: S. 1393 and S. 1392. S. 1393 would reauthorize and expand the fruit and vegetable pilot program, designed to make fresh produce available at no cost to children in all states throughout the school day. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) introduced HR 2832, a House companion bill extending the pilot program. The second bill, S. 1392, addresses competitive food sold in the school environment and would provide anywhere from $10 million to $35 million per year in grants for schools to develop “healthy school nutrition environments.” The bill also extends more authority to the Secretary of Agriculture over food in the entire school environment.
On the House side, Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) introduced a bill that would establish Healthy School Nutrition Environment Incentive Grants. HR 2987 would provide grants to schools that meet the following criteria: Provide program meals that meet nutritional standards for breakfasts and lunches established by the Secretary; ensure that all food served (including food served in participating schools and service institutions in competition with the programs) on school grounds during regular school hours is consistent with the nutritional standards for breakfasts and lunches established by the Secretary; promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables; and provide nutrition education to students and staff. The bill also addresses competitive foods by requiring the USDA to enter into an agreement with the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences under which the Institute of Medicine, based on sound nutritional science, would make recommendations to the USDA regarding the regulation of competitive foods in schools.
The problem with these bills is that they look to USDA to establish “nutritional standards.” This means that the emphasis will be on restricting fats, especially animal fats, required for normal growth in children.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced the “Farm-To-Cafeteria Projects Act of 2003” (HR 2626) to provide grant funds of up to $100,000 per school district to establish “farm-to-cafeteria” programs (S. 995 in the Senate).The one-time grants would help schools purchase equipment, provide staff training, conduct menu planning, locate sources of locally produced food, purchase food, and develop food and farm education programs such as farm visits and school gardens. The bill emphasizes locally grown produce and the collaboration of farmers, schools and community organizations. The bill taps into the small- and medium-size farms that are struggling to find profitable markets for their products. The incorporation of this bill into the Child Nutrition Act is vital to our membership as well as our children. Please support H.R. 2626 by faxing a letter to Rep. Fred Upton at (202) 225-4986, and S. 995 with an e-mail to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) at senator_leahy (at) leahy.senate.gov. For further information on these bills, please go to the following link: http://www.foodsecurity.org/f2s_factsheet.html.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2003.