by Marion Nestle
Feb 25 2014

Let’s Move! announces universal school meals !

Let’s Move! is making several sensational announcements today.

Announcement #1: Universal school meals

This one is extraordinary: Schools with 40% or more of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals will be able to serve free breakfasts and free lunches to every student in the school, regardless of family income.

This means an end to:

  • USDA paperwork requirements for ensuring eligibility.
  • Parents having to fill out complicated eligibility forms.
  • Schools having to monitor to make sure kids’ families have turned in the paperwork or paid.
  • Schools turning away kids whose families haven’t paid.
  • Schools destroying the meals of kids whose families haven’t paid.
  • Students knowing who gets free meals, and who does not.

Guess what:  This program, which will affect 22,000 U.S. schools and 9 million children, is cost-neutral.

How is this possible?

  • No more tedious, labor-intensive, expensive paperwork and monitoring.
  • More student participation means more reimbursement.

This is just what school food advocates have been saying for years (see, for example, Janet Poppendieck’s Free For All: Fixing School Food in America).

For this alone, Let’s Move! deserves enthusiastic congratulations.

Announcement #2: limits on marketing junk foods and sodas in schools

As discussed in ObamaFoodorama today, USDA’s new rules will:

  • Ban the marketing of unhealthy foods to children on school grounds.
  • Phase out on-campus advertising for sodas and junk foods at schools during the school day.
  • Apply the ban to places such as scoreboards on football fields and in gymnasiums, on vending machines, and on menu posters, cups and plates in cafeterias.

This is good news and a terrific step in the right direction, even though there are plenty of loopholes:

  • Scoreboards with Coke logos, for example, can be phased out over time.
  • After-school fundraisers and concessions at sports events are exempt.
  • Schools can opt out.

These announcements are a tribute to the persistent work of school food advocates over a great many years.

But there is still plenty of room for more advocacy:

  • Universal meals for all public schools.
  • Closing the loopholes on junk food marketing to kids.
  • Ensuring compliance with school meal standards.

The relevant documents

Comments

  • Dana Woldow
  • February 25, 2014
  • 9:42 am

One small correction – the community eligibility option allows schools with 40% of students qualified for free meals to serve all students free – but that 40% includes only those qualified for “free”, not “reduced price” meals.

  • JC
  • February 25, 2014
  • 10:11 am

Why should Let’s Move be congratulated for Announcement #1? It was Congress that passed this law five years ago.

  • Dana Woldow
  • February 25, 2014
  • 11:14 am

Schools also need to understand that although the threshold for doing universal feeding via the Community Eligibility Option is 40% of students qualified as free via direct certification (because of being enrolled in SNAP, TANF or similar govt. programs) it does not become cost effective until at least 60-65% of the kids are identified as “free”. This is because of the reimbursement formula used.

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  • Casey
  • February 25, 2014
  • 1:34 pm

Hope Ronald McDonald and the Chick-fil-A cow will no longer be allowed at school. May the Pepsi logo on the scoreboard in the gym also be on the way out: http://kyhealthykids.com/2013/02/22/when-schools-become-ads/

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  • School Bites
  • February 27, 2014
  • 11:48 pm

Love the ideas. Hate the loopholes! http://school-bites.com/michelle-obama-junk-food-schools/

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