Various Direct Links

19 November 2011

Repudiation: Congress Fails at School Nutrition

This week Congress passed and President Obama signed the "minibus" appropriations bill that prevents a government shutdown and authorizes spending for agriculture, commerce/justice/science, transportation/housing and urban development, and a continuing resolution (the last part prevents the shutdown).  Unfortunately, the "detailed summary" to which I linked, above, does not contain some important details to understand how this will affect school children.
Child nutrition programs – School lunch and school breakfast programs will receive $18.2 billion in mandatory funding in the agreement. This funding will help provide low income students with free or reduced-price meals at schools in every community in the nation. In addition, the conference agreement includes provisions to prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations and to provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Without these provisions, the cost of these important programs would balloon by an additional $7 billion over the next five years – leaving states and local school districts in the lurch.
The failure to improve students' meals is hidden in the part of the text that I have emphasized.  What was prevented included numerous healthier aspects to school lunches.
Under the guidelines, schools would have to cut sodium in subsidized meals by more than half, use more whole grains and serve low-fat milk. They also would limit kids to only one cup of starchy vegetables per week, so schools couldn’t offer french fries every day.
The starchy-vegetable proposal has been criticized by conservatives who think it goes too far and Congress members who represent potato-growers. They say potatoes are a low-cost food that provides fiber and other nutrients.
Let's be clear.  There are some debates about appropriate levels of sodium in the diet.  There are no debates about the value of whole grains.  The potato is healthful until it is fried.  Under this bill, a slice of pizza has a tiny amount of tomato paste that counts as a vegetable.

If you are remembering that President Reagan wanted to count ketchup as a vegetable, he was not the first.  As recounted on Wikipedia
In 1887, U.S. tariff laws that imposed a duty on vegetables, but not on fruits, caused the tomato's status to become a matter of legal importance. The U.S. Supreme Court settled the controversy on May 10, 1893, by declaring that the tomato is a vegetable, based on the popular definition that classifies vegetables by use, that they are generally served with dinner and not dessert (Nix v. Hedden (149 U.S. 304)).
While that history is fun, the point is that Congress and the President chose to not act in the best interest of children.  They chose to put special interests and ideology ahead of people.  Awful.

No comments:

Post a Comment

No longer open for freely commenting.