A long time coming, Senator Blanche Lincoln, who chairs the Agriculture Committee, has put forth a ten-year, $4.5 billion increase in funding for school lunch and nutrition programs. While this stops short of President Obama’s $1 million/year request, and that of food advocates such as Alice Waters and Ann Cooper, it will provide much-needed upgrading of food standards in our schools.
“This proposal is a monumental step forward as we work to end childhood hunger and address the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States," Lincoln said in unveiling her bill. The bill will not only feed more children who cannot afford a mid-day meal but make it easier to attain eligibility for free meals. In addition, it will include provisions for allowing the Agriculture Department to set nutrition standards for all food sold at schools, and could ban high-sugar sodas and junk food from vending machines.
Currently, the school lunch program serves over 32 million children, with over 60 percent being free or reduced in cost. In many poor urban areas and low-income rural communities, the lunch program is a significant portion of a student’s daily calories and nutrition.