America’s high childhood obesity rates are directly attributable to kids poor dietary choices and lack of exercise. As a result the President and First Lady have made both White House priorities; first with the “Let’s Move” initiative and now with landmark legislation that will make significant changes to the National School Lunch Program. The NSLP is a federally funded lunch program that provides free or reduced priced breakfast and lunch to children whose families meet certain income requirements. Recently, the program has been under heavy criticism for the lack of nutritional value of their daily food offerings. Especially since for some children it’s the only two warm meals they can count on each day.
The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act passed into law earlier this month, infuses the NSLP with federal funds to be utilized for reforming the food offerings of the NSLP. Now instead of having to choose between high fat, processed and sugary foods children will be offered low fat foods including fresh fruits, vegetables and whole wheat breads and pastas.
This legislation also seeks to get some real answers on various aspects of childhood hunger. A number of funds are directed towards the study of the various causes and consequences of childhood hunger along with funding for various organizations that coming up with innovative ways to end childhood hunger. Schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program will be required to institute onsite wellness policies including physical activity and specified nutritional requirements for food offered on campus. The act is also setting the framework for the institution of organic school lunches by establishing a pilot program that increases the quantity of organic foods in the NLSP, and gives preferential grant funding to school districts where 50% or more of the households are at or below the poverty line.
It’s a wonderful step in the right direction, one that’s been led by various state programs nationwide. California and Oregon already offer their students healthier lunch choices including many organic ones. Many schools have also begun gardening programs where the entire student body is involved in day-to-day cultivation activities; and when ready – the food is incorporated into the school’s lunches.
Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act is set to change the face of school lunches all over the country. Healthier and well-fed children are happier, more engaged in learning, and more productive as a whole. Now an entire group of kids that have previously been denied access to what some of us consider common eating habits, have a chance to literally change their lives.