The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signals a significant change in how we invest in our children and their health. Thanks to the tireless efforts of thousands of people who are working hard to get America’s schools to serve healthier food, including First Lady Michelle Obama, the $4.5 billion “Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act 2010” prevailed in the lame-duck session of Congress, and is being signed into law by President Obama today. The new law marks a key step toward potentially transforming the food served in America’s public schools. Read more

In a surprise move yesterday before heading out for five weeks of recess, the Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with unanimous consent, which means all 100 senators agreed to pass the bill without an individual vote. The bill allots an additional $4.5 billion dollars over ten years to fund federal child nutrition programs including school lunch.

First Lady Michelle Obama supported the bill as part of her Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity, writing in an op-ed in The Washington Post last week,”This groundbreaking legislation will bring fundamental change to schools and improve the food options available to our children.”

Though providing less than the requested $10 billion suggested by Let’s Move, this marks the first major step towards the most significant increase in funding on the child nutrition programs in 30 years. In a statement yesterday, the First Lady said, “While childhood obesity cannot be solved overnight, with everyone working together, there’s no question that it can be solved. And today’s vote moves us one step closer to reaching that goal.” Read more

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.

On Tuesday, the White House Childhood Obesity Report [PDF] 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. Read more

The Agriculture Committee of the US Senate has taken a first big step forward toward President Obama’s call for improved child nutrition by requesting an additional $450 million per year to fund better school lunch. Those seeking a healthy food and agriculture across the nation applaud the Committee’s approval of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, though more will be needed to improve the healthfulness of the food served in our lunchrooms. At the same time, it took one big step backwards by suggesting that over $4 billion dollars needed to fund that Act should be taken out of two existing Farm Bill programs.

The Committee wants to rob Peter to pay Paul and few people seeking healthy food and agriculture have cried foul. This is a mistake. It is the reason why two weeks ago Roots of Change launched an online petition to the House leadership that could stop such a move. We are encouraged by the announcement last week by Colin Peterson, Chairman of the House Ag Committee, that he will protect those Farm Bill programs with backing from many House members. But the fight is not over. Read more

Like victory gardens, home canning, and depression-era resource conservation, Slow Food USA’s Gordon Jenkins believes the idea of healthy school lunches is one worth revisiting.

“The school lunch program was created in 1946 as a measure of national security,” says Jenkins. “The goal was to make sure that our nation’s children were healthy, because only then would the whole nation be productive.”

Four decades later, most of us take for granted the fact that schools serve lunch, and that the federal government subsidizes many of them. Whether they have anything to do with students’ health is another story. “A lot of today’s adults remember school lunch when it was institutional Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes,” says Jenkins. “It wasn’t delicious, but no one expected it to be. Now, the cheapest fast food and junk food is in our cafeterias and it’s fueling the obesity epidemic.” Read more