Funding for student meals falls short

At the National Press Club on Tuesday, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a proposed Obama Administration $1 billion increase in the USDA budget for school food and WIC subsidies*. His news yesterday seemed positive; but Chef Ann Cooper did the math."When you do the math on 31.5 million school lunches annually, the new budget translates to a miserly dime-a-day increase per student meal," said Cooper, known as the Renegade Lunch Lady. "A dime is less than the cost of an apple a day. I can't believe that any of us think that's what it is going to cost to feed all of our children healthy school lunch," said Cooper. The Child Nutrition Act, reauthorized every five years, pays $12 billion to feed schoolchildren, averaging only $2.68 per day per child, with only 93 cents spent on food and the balance on operations. While Cooper and many children's health advocates applaud First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" Campaign, the current budget on deck for school food has them saying, "Oh brother." The current national dialogue on children's health issues provides a timely opportunity for better funding of school lunches. Cooper, in partnership with Whole Foods Market Inc., Slow Food USA, Roots of Change, Healthy Schools Campaign, and AllergyKids Foundation, is rallying a million citizens to write Congress to demand $1 more per lunch, 100 percent for food. Advocates for change can find templates of letters at www.lunchboxadvocates.org. "I believe we need to immediately implement the Institute of Medicine guidelines so that chicken nuggets, tater tots, HFCS, trans-fats, popsicles and pop tarts aren't our children's daily fare in public schools," said Cooper. Contributed by the Food, Family, Farming Foundation.

********** Published: February 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 45