School meals are all set to get healthier thanks to the recent congress move that passed a bill on a child nutrition bill. This new bill seeks to expand the health scope of the ubiquitous school with new additions of more fruits and vegetables. The bill was actively lobbied for by First Lady Michelle Obama who saw this as an important method to combat the twin evils of hunger and obesity.
The lunch program feeds an estimated 31 million students every day and many children rely on this school meal which also very often is their most important meal of the day. Activists have hailed this as a very important piece of legislation. The passing of this ratification rounds of the tenure of Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. Surrounded by the children of House members, she called the house to order in the name of “all America's children”, when she had taken the gravel in 2007.
More than a fruit fest
The secretary of agriculture now has the authority to regulate and establish nutrition standards for food sold in schools including vending machines. Schools now will have to serve more whole grains, low fat dairy products and fruits. The bill makes for incentives for schools that comply by giving them an additional federal payment of 6 cents per lunch served.
The bill regulates lunch prices served to children with family incomes over 185 percent of the poverty level. This might lead schools to raise lunch prices. Representative John Kline, Republican of Minnesota has criticized the move as akin to a tax increase on middle class families.
Many, especially advocates for the poor and poverty alleviation organisations, have criticised this move saying that child nutrition programs couldn't be expanded by reducing money for food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Since the bill automatically allows more than 100,000 children on Medicaid to qualify for free meals, critics have pointed out that schools weren't charging enough to cover costs and that money set aside to provide healthy food to low income kids was being diverted to feed high income kids.