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School Lunch Money

The debate over health care has largely eclipsed talk of school lunch reform. But there's good news for advocates of healthful school food in the House Agriculture Appropriations conference report: $135 million worth, to be precise.

The bill, which passed 263 to 162 late Wednesday, provides, among other things, $85 million for pilot projects to expand summer feeding programs, $25 million to increase access to low-income children and $25 million to help purchase kitchen equipment necessary to store, prepare and serve healthful meals.

“With unemployment and health-care costs on the rise, millions of families are relying on the federal child nutrition programs as the nutritional safety net for their children," Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a statement after the vote. "Giving our most vulnerable children access to healthy, safe, nutritious and affordable meals is one of the most important things we can do to help them thrive in school and in life.”

The conference report now moves on to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved. It then would go to President Obama, who campaigned to eliminate child hunger by 2015.

The extra funds are a response to specific state needs. Take access; in 2004, Congress made all children whose parents receive food stamps (now called SNAP benefits) eligible for free school meals. But the parents still had to fill out paperwork to enroll them in the program. The $25 million provided in the conference report will pay for technology to automatically enroll these low-income children for school food programs.

The new funding also responds to states' calls to improve summer food programs. A substantial chunk of the money, $85 million, will go to pilot projects that explore alternative methods of feeding children in rural and urban settings who may not have access to the traditional summer food service programs. The $25 million earmarked for kitchen equipment will help answer the intense demand for similar grants offered to schools in the stimulus package.

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  October 7, 2009; 6:45 PM ET
Categories:  Food Politics  | Tags: Jane Black, nutrition, school lunch  
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For many kids, sadly, the lunch they eat at school is the healthiest meal they have all day. In some cases, it is the only one. Anything that can be done to improve the quality and healthiness of that meal is a good thing.

Posted by: margaret6 | October 9, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

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