Healthy, Hunger Free Kids

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

The title of this post has a ring to it, don’t you think? Wouldn’t you be proud to live in a country where all children are healthy and no child goes hungry? Well, that’s the goal of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act that President Obama signed into law on Monday.

We can thank outgoing Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) for this one. She filed it in May without a single co-sponsor, the Senate approved it unanimously in August, and it passed the House early in December by a vote of 254-157. If you want to know how your congressmember voted, the roll call is here.

Nobody’s saying one new law is going to wipe out children’s hunger, obesity, and malnutrition any time soon, but it’s a long step, and Sen. Lincoln, who won a tough primary and lost in the general election, deserves high praise for making this law happen.

Here are a few of the law’s provisions.

  • Gives USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools during the school day, including vending machines, the “a la carte” lunch lines, and school stores.
  • Provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches. This is an historic investment, the first real reimbursement rate increase in over 30 years.
  • Helps communities establish local farm to school networks, create school gardens, and ensures that more local foods are used in the school setting.
  • Builds on USDA work to improve nutritional quality of commodity foods that schools receive from USDA and use in their breakfast and lunch programs.
  • Expands access to drinking water in schools, particularly during meal times.

The White House site from which this list comes also offers a week’s worth of before-and-after menus. Here’s hoping that money actually gets used to implement this law.

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