The Child Nutrition Bill passed through Congress Dec. 2 and was signed by Obama Dec. 13, making 115,000 more children eligible for subsidized meals and providing more nutritious school lunch options. According to Good Magazine, the bill determines the reimbursement rate for school lunches, what food can be sold in vending machines, and whether trans fats can be banned all together. It raises standards for school nutrition, requiring schools to serve more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
Good Magazine reporter Nikhil Swaminathan reported that in that past,
“kids who [ate] lunches served by their schools [were] almost 60% more likely to be overweight or obese when compared to children who [brought] their lunch from home.”
Unhealthy school lunches consisted of, for example, a fried chicken patty, white roll, canned green beans, whole milk, and a package of snack cakes. Now, they may include a barbecued chicken patty, whole grain roll, locally grown carrots, one percent milk, and sliced apples, according to the New York Times.
In order to help cover the cost of these higher quality meals, the bill provides for an increase in federal reimbursement for school lunches for the first time in 30 years. Prior to this new legislation, schools were reimbursed up to $2.68 per school lunch; now, it will be increased by six cents, to $2.74.
Although the bill excellently contributes to enhancing America’s children’s wellbeing, and increases health for particularly low-income youth, its source of funding is a major drawback. About half of its $4.5 billion cost is financed by a cut in the federal food stamp program, now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), starting a few years from now. If the goal of policy is to provide adequate meals and improve the health of struggling people, creating one beneficial program at the expense of another seems ineffective. Multiple programs are needed to combat hunger, as so many people are suffering from food insecurity nationwide. The aim of the Child Nutrition Bill is positive, and its provisions have great potential to help youth in need. However, the source of funding should not be stemming from another greatly needed food-assistance program.