Healthy Harvest: Reforming the Farm Bill to Promote Child Nutrition

July 12, 2007

by Rochelle Davis, HSC Executive Director

The debate in Congress is heating up around the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, which not only addresses agriculture policy but also covers many important nutrition issues.

This New York Times article and this San Francisco Chronicle article illustrate the unique buzz surrounding this year’s Farm Bill reauthorization (which occurs every five years) and its connection to health and obesity issues.

As I mentioned in HSC’s blog earlier this year, HSC supports reforming the Farm Bill because we understand that an agriculture policy that stresses healthy sustainably grown food is important for children’s nutrition both in and out of school. We’ve joined hundreds of other organizations in signing on to a report titled “Seeking Balance in U.S. Farm and Food Policy” (PDF), which calls for a more balanced Farm Bill.

Specifically, we’d like to see changes that will have an impact on what children eat at school, where they consume many of their daily calories. HSC is encouraging our congressional leaders to authorize a Farm Bill that will:

Establish Appropriate Standards for Food Offered in Schools. The Farm Bill should authorize the USDA to develop standards for all food offered in schools, not only those foods available from school lunch in the cafeteria. Food sold in vending machines, school stores, and cafeteria a la carte lines are currently not subject to any minimum nutrition standards.

Promote Children’s Fruit and Vegetable Intake. Programs that have been successful in increasing children’s fruit and vegetable consumption – thereby reducing their risk of disease and providing the nutrition they need to learn – need funding to reach students in need.

Support Healthy School Food Programs. The Farm Bill has the opportunity to support fresh, healthy food for children’s lunch while also supporting healthy local agriculture systems. Initiatives to do this include farm to school grant programs and clarification of language that will allow school districts to specify local or regional foods in their bidding process.

The Farm Bill is one of the largest and most complex pieces of federal legislation in place today, making it a powerful force in shaping our food and nutrition practices. It’s exciting to consider the tremendous potential for change in these sensible yet innovative reforms.