How times have changed in America’s public schools. An editorial in today’s New York Times gives us an historic perspective of the federal school lunch program since its inception nearly a half century ago. The program was initially implemented to fight malnutrition, but now faces the opposite challenge of fighting obesity.
Federal rules that govern the sales of these harmful (junk) foods at schools are limited in scope and have not been updated for nearly 30 years. Until new regulations are written, children who are served healthy meals in the school cafeteria will continue to buy candy bars, sugary drinks and high sodium snacks elsewhere in school.
Fortunately, Congress seems to be waking up to this problem. A bill introduced by Representative Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, would update nutritional standards and give the Department of Agriculture broader authority to promulgate new regulations for food sold in schools that accept federal food subsidies. Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, has said that he will introduce similar legislation in the Senate.
Let’s hope so for our children’s sake, as the stakes are increasingly high.
Over the last four decades, the obesity rates for adolescents have tripled.
While they’re at it, perhaps they can begin addressing the problem of school kitchens not having the equipment and/or funding necessary to prepare meals from scratch, preferably utilizing local and sustainable foods. These functional kitchens can then provide the added benefit of getting students engaged in the cooking process.