A bill to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act would give school districts more money for school meals but also would impose new nutrition standards that could be difficult and costly for school boards.
The House Education and Labor committee has released a draft of its bill to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, which could be voted on before the July 4 recess. The legislation sponsored by the committee’s chairman, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., is similar to a measure before the Senate.
While NSBA supports the goals of the “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” there are concerns that some of the requirements would be difficult or impossible to put into practice without considerable expense. It’s vital that Congress provide more funding, as analysts estimate that the costs for complying with the proposed mandates would be at least 11 cents per school meal, while the House legislation only authorizes an increase of about six cents per meal.
“We know that children who eat nutritious foods and are active stay healthier, perform better in school, and learn behaviors that will keep them healthy throughout their lifetimes, which is why it is critically important that this legislation address the needs of local communities,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “However, this legislation is being proposed at a time when schools and parents are impacted by a downtrodden economy.”
To move forward with any new requirements, schools may be forced to cut other classroom programs, Bryant added.
Representatives of NSBA’s school health programs have worked with numerous districts that have successfully implemented programs to serve more nutritious foods in their cafeterias and at school events.
“These successes have proven that awareness and education — not federal mandates — will spur parents and communities to make the changes that are absolutely necessary for long-term success,” Bryant said.
NSBA’s Delegate Assembly adopted a resolution concerning school nutrition at the 2010 annual meeting in Chicago. That resolution, which guides NSBA’s advocacy efforts, states, “NSBA urges Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to recognize local school district authority and the variance among school district circumstances when enacting legislation or promulgating regulations to address childhood nutrition. In addition, NSBA urges Congress to ensure that adequate funding is provided to support improving the nutritional quality of foods and beverages sold at schools.”