by Marion Nestle
Dec 14 2010

President signs healthy, hunger-free kids act, at last!

Yesterday, President Obama signed the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (how do they name these things?)

White House, Pete Souza

The fact sheet on the bill lists what it will do with the additional $4.5 billion in funding (over 10 years), among other actions:

  • 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 the six cents per meal increase].
  • Helps communities establish local farm to school networks, create school gardens, and ensures that more local foods are used in the school setting.
  • Expands access to drinking water in schools, particularly during meal times.
  • Sets basic standards for school wellness policies including goals for nutrition promotion and education and physical activity.
  • Increases the number of eligible children enrolled in school meal programs by approximately 115,000 students…Helps certify an average additional 4,500 students per year to receive school meals.
  • Allows more universal meal access for eligible students in high poverty communities.

The sticking point is the funding.  It is to be “borrowed” from an authorized increase in funding for SNAP (food stamps).   As I discussed yesterday, enrollment in SNAP is rising rapidly, and so are its costs so the loss of this increase will hurt.

In his signing speech, President Obama explained:

It’s also important to note that while this bill is fully paid for, it won’t add a dime to the deficit, some of the funding comes from rolling back a temporary increase in food stamp benefits –- or SNAP as it’s now called -– starting in the fall of 2013.  I know a number of members of Congress have expressed concerns about this offset being included in the bill, and I’m committed to working with them to restore these funds in the future.

He also said:

Not only am I very proud of the bill, but had I not been able to get this passed, I would be sleeping on the couch.

Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move campaign inspired this bill and her leadership had much to do with its enactment.  Cheers for this, at last!

  • Anthro

    Perhaps we elected the wrong Obama?

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  • You left out the provision that requires schools to start raising the price of lunch they charge to kids who don’t qualify as low income. Most schools price “paid” lunch at far less than what it actually costs to make. Some fear that hiking prices could drive hundreds of thousands of kids from the subsidized lunch program, adding one more burden to beleaguered school kitchens.

    Congress did not do the lunch ladies any favors with this legislation.

  • Cathy Richards

    I think it’s marvellous. Flaws aside, it’s a positive step in the right direction.
    If you want perfection before anything gets signed, you’ll be waiting a long long time.

  • Pete

    Cathy – I kind of agree, except many will consider this a closed issue and move it to the back burner. Its hard enough to get Washington’s attention, so when you have it go all in! But I’m no politician. 😉

  • Is that that a faint light I see today at the end of the tunnel?

  • Lot’s of schools that would have never been exposed to healthy, nutritional lunches will benefit from this Act. By expanding the farm to school network, this will ensure that the food on our students’ plates is not only fresh, but sustainable. What a great way to support both our local economies and health networks. Hopefully, this will lead to more schools taking on the tasks of educating students about not only their health, but the environment. Much like Boston Latin School is doing by building a green roof and green curriculum.

  • Subvert

    Love the picture with Obama telling the little poster-child…”do you really think anything I do at this point matters anymore..?!”

  • Anna Breithaupt

    This is a definately a step forward, but does not do anything to change the system. Money to fund this was taken from SNAP, not farm payments. While this act does have some good parts to it, I can’t help but think some of this is a PR move for the USDA, as it does not really change anything about the food system as a whole. Just curious, what’s going to happen to SNAP now that $4.5 Billion dollars is taken away from it and already participants are spending more than monthly allowance.

  • Renee

    I worry that this won’t make any difference in the lives of the children who need it. For some of them, there will be less food at home because of this bill, and given how the industrial food machine owns school lunches, I’m not confident that these nutritional guidelines will actually result in increased nutrition at lunch. So, less food at home, and the same lack of good food at lunch could be a lose-lose.

    Maybe it won’t work out that way, but my confidence level is low.