Posted on Tue, June 16, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
0 Comments | Categories: Food Justice, News, Current Events, Policy, School Food,
by Slow Food USA Interns Alex Tung and Leah Gorham
This week, the front line for getting better food into schools is Philadelphia.
After narrowly escaping the closure of its school breakfast and lunch program, which provides free meals to 120,000 low-income students without requiring their families to fill out unduly paperwork, Philadelphia has turned the tables: five Pennsylvania Congressmen are introducing bills in the House and Senate that would expand the city’s paperless program to the rest of the nation. Together, the Paperless Enrollment Act for School Meals of 2009 and Rep. Joe Sestak’s School Meal Enhancement Act of 2009 would give schools an alternative to the current application processing system and would make it easier for poor families to apply for free and reduced-price meals.
In a press release, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, a co-sponsor of the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009, said, “Modernization of the school lunch program is one of my top priorities when the Senate reauthorizes the Child Nutrition Act later this fall…. The current system is inefficient and outdated.
“Universal feeding” programs like the one in Philadelphia allow every child to receive a free lunch, regardless of whether their parents remembered to fill out the right application. They also relieve the paperwork burden on some cafeterias, which saves staff time and resources that can then be directed to sourcing and preparing better food - which, in an age where 1 in 3 children will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime, is an urgent matter of national concern. Figures from Pennsylvania show that nearly twice as many students get free meals when parents are not required to fill out the applications. We’ve got to make sure we’re feeding children in the first place - and helping them develop healthy eating habit - before we can turn to updating the National School Lunch Program in order to give schools the resources to serve real food.
As we approach this fall’s reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, the Pennsylvania Congressmen’s initiative should serve as an example of the role each legislator plays in protecting our children’s health - and how they can take quick action to make it happen.
To keep up-to-date on school food policy, especially with news about the Child Nutrition Act, check out schoolfoodpolicy.com.
photo courtesy of bookgrl, flickr creative commons