You've probably seen our action alerts and Facebook posts over the last month about the all-out food fight in Congress over school meals. What’s at stake are the new nutrition standards established by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which have added more whole grains, fruits and vegetables to school meals, while cutting excess sodium and unhealthy fats. Some member of Congress say these standards are too burdensome, while others (and more than 200 groups, including the American Heart Association) believe that kids’ health is an investment worth making. Here’s a quick recap of what’s happened and what’s to come as we work to protect the progress being made to improve the quality of school food for kids:
Action in the House of Representatives and Senate: Both chambers of Congress are working to pass an agriculture funding bill. The biggest difference between the two bills, which have passed their respective committees, is that the House bill would grant waivers that would turn-back the clock and allow schools to serve lunches that don’t meet the latest nutrition standards. As our CEO Nancy Brown said, “We cannot go back to the days when the answer to ‘What’s for lunch?’ was pizza, French fries and chicken nuggets.”
While some schools have experienced growing pains to implement some of these changes, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that over 90% of schools are in compliance. The AHA strongly feels that Congress needs to let the USDA do its job of providing technical assistance to struggling schools, rather than giving schools a pass.
What’s Next: The full House and Senate are scheduled to vote on their respective funding bills before the end of the month. We expect some amendments to be offered (both good and bad). Then, the two chambers will have to “conference” their bills to reach an agreement on a final agriculture appropriations bill. Given the differences between the two bills, we expect the conference negotiations to be a tough fight in war to keep school nutrition standards strong for all kids in all schools.
“How can I help?”: I’m glad you asked! Members of Congress need to keep hearing from health advocates that healthy school meals matter. Please make a quick call to your Members of Congress’ office today to tell them you support the progress being made. Below are some simple talking points you can use.
1) Hi! My name is ____________ and I’m a constituent from [CITY].
2) I’m concerned to hear about the current efforts in Congress to weaken school nutrition standards that are helping to improve food quality and reinforce healthy eating habits with kids.
3) Can I count on the Senator ________________/Representative _______________ to support keeping schools on track to meet strong nutrition standards?
***Need help finding the contact information for your U.S. Senators and Representative? Click here!
And don’t forget to report back... let us know which offices you called by sending a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more school nutrition facts? Check out this great infographic from the USDA.