The National School Lunch Act was signed into law by President Truman in 1946. As a result of the act, the National School Lunch Program was created. The program was originally designed to stabilize food prices with government purchases of food surpluses. The surplus food was then used to provide low cost school lunches to students via school subsidies.
Today more than 31 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program. Participating schools receive cash reimbursement for each meal. School lunches comprise between 30 to 50 percent of a child’s daily caloric intake, and the current substandard nutritional standards being used by the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program were established in 1995.
In December 2009, a scathing indictment of the entire program surfaced when an investigative report conducted by the United States Government Accountability Office revealed thousands of schools served contaminated peanut butter and canned vegetables to schoolchildren weeks after recalls were announced.
During the same month, a USAToday report revealed that kids on the school lunch program were served thousands of tons of tough, stringy “spent hen” meat from millions of egg-laying hens culled each year and supplied to schools by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The meat from these old egg layers is normally used by pet food producers, but found its way into chicken patties and salads on U.S. school menus. The Campbell’s Soup Company stopped using this low-grade meat in its products more than a decade ago. USAToday also disclosed that McDonald’s and Burger King test their meat five to ten times more often than the USDA tests the meat that is shipped off for school lunches.
Michael Greger, a physician who runs public health programs at the Humane Society says, “…spent hens are significantly more likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can cause…diseases. Because the hens are stacked in pens from floor to ceiling, they are exposed to high levels of fecal dust and subject to heavy stress, which can contribute to higher infection rates,” he says.
Hopefully all this egregious incompetence and total disregard for the health, and nutritional welfare of our children by slothful government agencies is about to change. Thanks to the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign to end childhood obesity, Congress is under pressure to revise the federal child-nutrition programs.
As our own Susan Davis reported, “Mrs. Obama is helping orchestrate a media blitz that will include support from professional athletes, Hollywood superstars, food producers, vendors, medical associations and other non-profit groups and governing agencies. Look for her to make appearances on many TV talk and entertainment shows as she spreads the word about the new program.”
Michelle Obama’s campaign has forced the USDA to consider changes in school nutrition standards, and the agency will attempt to influence Congress to increase funding for school lunches to improve food quality.
The First Lady’s campaign efforts have spawned a whirlwind of frenzied action in the food and beverage industry. Preventative measures have been taken by the soft drink industry in anticipation of forced reforms. The industry’s move came the same day of the First Lady’s announced campaign.
A critic of the food industry said the soft-drink companies saw new regulations coming. “They might as well get out in front and get credit for it,” said Marion Nestle, a New York University professor and author of a book, “Food Politics,” about the food industry’s lobbying tactics.
Beverage companies will start listing calories on the front of bottles and also on the vending machines they control. And the FDA will put pressure on food manufacturers to put more nutrition information on the front of food packages. The USDA will move to improve school lunches and restrict the sale of sugary and high-sodium products in vending machines.
Currently, school chefs claim they’re left with as little as one dollar to feed children a decent meal after their overhead. But the White House will request more funding be allocated for school breakfasts and lunches, so children will receive healthier foods including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. The Obama administration budgeted an extra $1 billion a year for lunch programs so schools will now get $2.68 per lunch.
“There are some individual food service managers around the country who have just made amazing transformations, using much more fresh food, more local food, getting rid of the packaged and processed foods,” said Leslie Mikkelsen, managing director of the Prevention Institute, an Oakland, California nonprofit group.
Although Congressional approval is required, other elements of the First Lady’s plan affecting school lunches include: “$25 million for schools to renovate their kitchens to replace deep fryers with equipment needed to store more produce and serve more nutritious food, and $10 billion over 10 years for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. Some of the money would be used to provide free and reduced-priced school meals for a million more children a year and to help schools serve more nutritious foods.”
The First Lady’s crusade to end childhood obesity is joined by the tireless efforts of Jamie Oliver, who has leveraged fame and fortune to empower people everywhere to accomplish the same shared goal. Oliver, the recipient of the 2010 TED Prize granting recipients an opportunity to realize their wish to change the world, along with the First Lady, will surly garner the kind of change needed in the assault on obesity, and advancement of healthy, nutritious eating. We applaud you.