Will The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act recently signed into law on December 13, 2010 by President Barack Obama be able to deliver healthier meals in the schools nutrition programs or will the bill overwhelm struggling school districts with additional unfunded mandates? Schools confront difficult issues on a daily basis that affect the learning ability of their students: struggling economic conditions, students from poor families, increased food insecurity across the country, and constant pressures to increase student performance. Providing healthy meals for children, who otherwise would eat poorly or not at all, is a necessity that our country has recognized and planned for many decades. Two measures authorized permanently by Congress to address these issues are the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). These programs provide a dietary safety net for children by ensuring that they have access to nutritionally sound meals during the school day, which result in better learning environment. Meals are provided to schoolchildren across the nation at either an affordable price, reduced price, or no charge to students whose families demonstrate an economic need. The National School Lunch Program was signed into law in 1946 by President Harry Truman as a measure to strengthen national security by reducing child malnutrition and to assist American farmers by providing a large government market for surplus foods. The School Breakfast Program was later added by Congress in 1966 as a pilot program and eventually signed into law in 1975. Today, we face a dual threat: increased food insecurity due to the pressures of economic recession and a rapid increase in childhood obesity across the nation. A modern child nutrition program will have to be able to address both issues in a common-sense approach that contains costs.
Current Policies/ Funding
The National School Lunch Program is an enormous federal program that has grown to become the second largest U.S. food and nutrition assistance program in both numbers of children served. In 2009, over 31 million children participated in the NSLP each school day at a cost of 9.3 billion to the Federal government. The SBP reached 11 million children at an additional cost of 2.4 billion. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the program on the federal level and provides oversight of the states agencies that are responsible for the program, in Georgia, the department of education manages the statewide program. Ultimately, the success of the program resides with the local school district or each individual school food authority who implement the program to the students. The laws establishing the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program stated that schools had to run their nutrition programs profit free and set the monetary per meal rates to reimburse the individual school. Rates for school year 2009 were $2.72...