School Food – A Hopeful Step Forward

April 7th, 2010 | Simcha Weinstein | 1 Comment »

It’s pretty easy to imagine that our Congress and Senate only work on one thing at a time, particularly when the projects involve major legislation such as Health Care and Financial regulation. The truth is that Congress is constantly working on many pieces of legislation simultaneously, although they rarely make headlines. So, it’s important for us to make sure that we are highlighting important legislation, at least in terms of how it affects and impacts the organic and natural foods industry. To that end, it’s certainly worth highlighting The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which was passed by the Senate Agriculture Committe on March 24th of this year. What stands out about this bill from an industry perspective is that it includes an ammendment {added by Senators Sherrod Brown (OH) and Patrick Leahy (VT)} for the inclusion of a pilot project within the Program to offer healthy organic food in school feeding programs.

“In supporting OTA’s proposal for organic foods to have a role in healthy school feeding programs, Senator Brown as sponsor and Senator Leahy as co-sponsor of the amendment have taken the first step to help include organic products and all that they offer into national children’s feeding programs. The health status of our children is crucial to the well-being of our nation’s future, and the food that they are fed in schools is key to their health status,” said Christine Bushway, the Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association.

The amendment would authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an organic food pilot program that would provide grants on a competitive basis to school food authorities to increase the amount of organic foods provided to schoolchildren under the school feeding program. The appropriations request for carrying out such an initiative for fiscal years 2011 through 2015 was set at $10 million. Current nutrition programs receive about $16 billion annually. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act would provide about $4.5 billion over ten years for expanding and new programs. Bushway noted that Senate Agriculture Committee passage is just the first step in the legislative process.

Having had 2 children go through the public school system and witnessing first hand the disasterous food offerings in schools, this bill looks like it has the potential to be a very nice step forward. The issue with food in the schools sadly boils down to finances. Granted, there are many different opinions as to what constitutes healthy food, but I can’t imagine that anyone really thinks sodas and french fries are healthy. I think it just comes down to what can be afforded. Even with good intentions and an understanding about good food, without the money, it’s difficult to make inroads. Appropriating more money for healthy eating in schools, although not making the front page of any newspaper in the past two weeks, certainly headlines our blog today. We’re encouraged.