Debra Eschmeyer is an Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy Food and Society Fellow and the Marketing and Outreach Director of the National Farm to School Network. On Twitter: http://twitter.com/farmtoschool
Let’s Move Child Nutrition
By Debra Eschmeyer
Can you show the Mom-in-Chief how motivated we are to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act?
Back in April I attended the White House Childhood Obesity Summit on behalf of the National Farm to School Network as reported here. The purpose of the summit was to gather input from experts to create a roadmap leading to children reaching adulthood at a healthy weight.
Recently the White House Childhood Obesity Report was released. One particular challenge of the taskforce was to create benchmarks of success, leading to the focused goal of returning to a childhood obesity rate of 5% by 2030. For more detailed summaries of the report, check out Jane Black’s Washington Post piece or Obamafoodorama’s post. For those specifically interested in linking local food and agriculture to federal nutrition programs, you will be as pleased as I am to see Farm to School is included as recommendation 3.6: “USDA should work to connect school meals programs to local growers, and use farm-to-school programs, where possible, to incorporate more fresh, appealing food in school meals.” Schools gardens are also recommended: “Where possible, use school gardens to educate students about healthy eating.”
It is great to see the Administration embracing proven strategies for healthy children and communities. However, as Michelle Obama said, “Our work has only just begun.”
Now we need to crank up the heat. Now we turn prose and a host of good ideas into actual policy. Critical questions remain: Is there legislative muscle behind this report? Will the East and West wings put their weight behind passing a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) this year? CNR is the bill that decides what’s served in your child’s lunch room and much more.
Michelle Obama could test drive the new action plan now and encourage the Senate to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act as soon as possible.
The Senate child nutrition bill has stalled and delay could mean death to our efforts thus far. Time is short; the Senate must act soon or there won’t be a child nutrition bill this year at all, and that means we lose the possibility of a small increase in reimbursement rates. It would also leave us with junk food in the school halls, scrap new funding for expanding farm to school programs, and eliminate changes enabling schools to serve free meals to all students in low income schools.
Do we want more funding than the proposed $4.5 billion over ten years? Absolutely, but the only way we’re going to get the bill through Congress this year and have the chance of more dollars for child nutrition is by keeping the wheels rolling.
Your voice is critical to turning school food reform dreams into reality. And, it turns out, taking action is one of the taskforce’s key recommendations. As Michelle Obama said, “We are calling upon mayors and governors; and parents and educators; business owners and health care providers. Anyone who has a stake in giving our children the healthy, happy future that we all know they deserve. All we need is the motivation, the opportunity and the willpower to do what needs to be done.”
There are opportunities lurking around every corner, but the opportunity to make significant, national policy changes that will touch the daily lives of children don’t come knocking every day. Child Nutrition Reauthorization is the opportunity to focus and unleash the motivation and willpower we’ve demonstrated through millions of signatures added to petitions, thousands of letters written by children and parents to Congress, hundreds of action alerts sent out, and even very fun spoofs such as Lunch Encounters of a Third Kind…all for the purpose of creating a healthier generation through school meals.
So Michelle Obama and Taskforce, Let’s Move! and let’s do whatever it takes to get the Child Nutrition bill moving through the Senate, through the House, and into the lunch room!
Help children like this 7th Grader from Georgia tell Senators to improve school lunch!
Dear Senator Saxby Chambliss:
I wish to commend you on your job of representing our state at the caliber that you do. Not many people are capable, or willing, to put themselves into your position. However, I feel that something is amiss at our public schools. Almost every day, I walk through the lunch line, eyeing up the different choices for my meal. Looking down at my tray, I see that each part of my meal (an entrée and two sides, accompanied by a half-pint of milk) is roughly the same shade of unappetizing brown. The average daily lunch consists of pizza, fries, and chips, all of which are filled with carbohydrates and salt. This produces both an un-healthy lunch, as well as an unappetizing one.
37% of children in Georgia are obese, one of the highest percentages in the nation. This high percentage of overweight children eventually leads to overweight adults, on which the future of our country rests. This obesity is a national crisis, as almost 27% of all military age men are too overweight to keep up with the strict regime of the army. I urge you to help those of us in public school obtain a healthier, not to mention better tasting, lunch. If you could help support the development of more Farm to School programs in the area, as well as advocate a change toward better food through the Child Nutrition Act, the public schools and the children within them would be better off for it. Please make your best attempt to pass this act to and to forward the progress of the Farm to School programs.
G M, 7th Grader, Georgia
Kids get it, will Congress?