I’m all for the child nutrition bill, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which is pending in the House. This is one priority of President and First Lady Obama’s which I think many of us involved in education can embrace as its goal is to improve what is being offered to our students for school lunches and breakfasts. At a time when child obesity is increasing drastically and so many are struggling economically, schools need to be held accountable to improve what they are serving our students.
Many children either choose not to eat breakfast before coming to school or are on Free and Reduced Lunch which allows them to receive free breakfasts, too. Last year when our school started serving breakfasts, few of my students took advantage of this option. The ones who did tended to be the ones who qualified to receive breakfast for free. But I have noticed this year that about half of my students are either buying or receiving breakfasts. What is the difference? I think it’s what is being served. Breakfast usually consists of a choice of sweetened cereal, a donut or sweet roll of some kind, cinnamon bread, yogurt (which is rarely chosen), milk, and juice. Most of what they are eating is empty calories with minimal nutritional value. I don’t think I have ever seen fruit or anything which would provide protein being served for breakfast. Sugar and carbs! That’s our school breakfast, and this is supposed to fortify our students and get them physically ready and mentally alert for learning!
Lunches aren’t much better. A little lighter on the sugar, but the carbohydrates and grease are unreal! Our most coveted lunches are pizza, nachos, chicken fries or nuggets, breadsticks filled with cheese served with dipping sauce, and breakfast for lunch, which is French toast sticks and potato patties. Then, after filling up on all of these carbs, students can buy two extras. These include chips, cookies, fruit snacks, and candy. Rarely is fresh fruit available, and while vegetables are served, they are rarely eaten. Students can opt to order a salad, but the salads are made with iceberg lettuce so there is little nutritional value to them either.
Therefore, I am happy to report that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, is being heartily supported by many, in fact, “more than 1000 organizations from all 50 states—representing public health experts, private sector companies, and faith-based and anti-hunger organizations—wrote to the House of Representatives urging passage of this legislation.” It has already passed in the Senate, and will hopefully pass in the House of Representatives as well. If passed, it would do the following (according to the Department of Education website):
* Increase access to meal programs.
* Improve nutrition standards.
* Increase education about healthy eating.
* Establish standards for competitive foods sold in schools.
* Increase physical activity.
* Train people who prepare school meals.
* Enhance food safety.
I thoroughly support the efforts to pass this important bill. We need to teach our children to eat better, and we need to provide healthy food for those students whose best or only meals are those they are receiving at school. If the members of the House of Representatives were to randomly visit schools in the states they represent, I am quite sure this bill would pass by a landslide! Let’s get this bill passed and provide meals that will improve the health and physical well-being of our children.