By Kittredge, Betsy Miller
on June 10, 2010 9:47 AM
Improving Meal Quality, Expanding Access and Filling Nutritional Gaps
For millions of families, the meals their children receive at school or in child care are their only chance at a healthy meal all day. In 2008, more than 16 million children lived in homes without access to enough nutritious food. America’s children should not have to go hungry – they should have access to healthy foods year round that will help them thrive physically and academically.
We expect children to come to school prepared to learn but hunger and poor nutrition can present major barriers to their success in the classroom. And, since hunger does not take a summer vacation, providing children with year round access to healthier, nutritious foods means children won’t go hungry just because school is out.
The Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act will dramatically improve children’s access to nutritious meals, enhance the quality of meals children eat both in and out of school and in child care settings, implement new school food safety guidelines and, for the first time, establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools.
This new legislation will answer President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s call to reduce childhood hunger and support school and community efforts to reduce childhood obesity.
Specifically, these new investments in child nutrition will:
Improve Access to School Meal Programs
* Increase the number of eligible children enrolled in the school lunch programs by using Medicaid/SCHIP data to directly certify children who meet income requirements without requiring individual applications and requiring states to establish and execute a plan to increase rates of direct certification.
* Provide enhanced universal meal access for eligible children in high poverty communities by eliminating paper applications and using census data to determine school wide income eligibility.
* Increase children’s access to healthy school breakfasts by providing competitive grants to school districts to start up or improve their program.
Improve Access to Out of School Meal Programs
* Ensure fewer children go hungry year round by providing meals for over 225,000 children through seamless meal service for children in school based and community based summer and after-school programs, and in low income rural areas.
* Improve access for children in home-based child care by reducing administrative costs for sponsors of child care meal programs.
Help Schools and Child Care Improve the Quality of Meals
* Assist schools in meeting meal requirements proposed by the Institute of Medicine by increasing the reimbursement rate for lunch by 6 cents per meal — the first real increase in over 30 years.
* Enhance funding for nutrition education in schools to support healthy eating and school wellness.
* Promote stronger collaboration and sharing of nutrition education between child care programs and WIC programs.
Encourage Public/Partnerships in Communities
* Connect more children to healthy produce from local farms by helping communities establish local farm to school networks, establish school gardens and use more local foods in school cafeterias.
* Leverage public and private partnerships to help reduce childhood hunger and promote community-wide strategies to improve child nutrition and wellness.
Improve Food Safety Requirements for School Meals Programs
* Ensure school meals are safe for all students by extending food safety requirements to all areas in which school food is stored, prepared, and served.
* Support improved communication to speed notification of recalled school foods consistent with GAO recommendations.
* Ensures all foodservice employees have access to food safety training to prevent and identify food borne illness such as through web-based training.
Streamline Program Administration and Support Program Integrity
* Increase efficiency, improve program administration, support services and program access and modernize the WIC program by extending period of certification for children, increasing support for breastfeeding, and transitioning from paper food vouchers to an electronic benefit program.
* Strengthen School Meal program integrity and remove program silos in after school meal programs by simplifying program rules and affording schools greater flexibility for addressing program costs.
Supporters of the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act