Senate Bill Aims to Make Junk Food Scarce in School-Lunch Programs

Big changes are on the way for America’s school-lunch programs. The U.S. Senate is moving toward a vote that will spend billions making sure school lunches meet new nutritional guidelines. The bill also tries to clean up lunchrooms that are making kids sick.

In theory, at least, junk food will be harder to find in schools.

United Press International reported on what the proposed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 does:

  • “Expands the at-risk after-school program from a snack to a meal.
  • “Allows schools in high-poverty areas to offer free meals to all students without collecting paper applications to reduce administrative burdens on schools.
  • “Adds a 6-cent-per-meal increase to help schools meet healthier standards.
  • “Gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to establish national nutrition standards for all foods sold on school campus throughout the school day.
  • “Facilitates planting school gardens and using local foods in school cafeterias.”

USA Today has done a ton of reporting on this issue recently. The paper reported:

“The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 would commit an additional $4.5 billion to child-nutrition programs over the next 10 years and implement the most sweeping changes to those programs in decades. Among other things, the bill directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set new nutrition standards for all food served in schools, from lunchrooms to vending machines.

” ‘This bill . . . puts us on the path to ending childhood hunger and addressing the epidemic of childhood obesity,’ said Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which passed the bill unanimously and sent it to the full Senate for a vote later this year. The House has yet to act on its version of the legislation.”

Prior to the announcement of the safety initiatives, USA Today did an investigative series on school lunchrooms. The investigation found that 23,000 children were sickened by food they ate at school from 1998 through 2007, and it highlighted instances in which schools unwittingly served students food that had been recalled. The newspaper also found that norovirus, usually linked to improper food handling, is the most common food-borne illness in schools, yet about 26,000 school cafeterias have not had mandatory, twice-yearly inspections.”

What you can do

Lots of news organizations run restaurant inspection reports. Why not school-cafeteria inspection reports? I am always struck by how many people can be affected by a contaminated convention/banquet at a hotel, a cruise ship or a prison food-services program.

Related stories from USA Today:

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