Every year students from across the country come together in Washington, D.C., at our national Cooking up Change competition. These students are challenged to create healthy school meals that comply with the USDA science-based nutrition standards. Through Cooking up Change, these students highlight the challenges and the possibilities of healthy school food.
We can learn a lot from these students. These student chefs show us all that within the constraints that schools face every day, it is possible to create healthy meals that appeal to students using whole grains, little sodium and plentiful fruits and vegetables.
This is a message that’s desperately needed as Congress works toward passing a new version of the Child Nutrition Act. Just this week, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee voted on legislation to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act. Called the “Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016,” this bill would maintain many of the gains that advocates pushed for in the last authorization.
The Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016 is a bipartisan effort that maintains many of the improvements since 2010, including:
- Whole grains: This bill would require 80 percent of grains in school food programs (rather than 100 percent) to be whole-grain rich, meaning at least half whole grain.
- Sodium: Sodium reductions would remain intact, but schools would be given additional time to comply.
- Fruit and Vegetable Requirement: The requirement for schools to serve fruit or vegetables remains intact.
- Farm to School: The bill expands the USDA’s Farm to School Grant program to connect schools and students to food from local farmers.
- Kitchen facilities: This bill provides grants for schools to update their kitchen facilities to support healthy food preparation.
As with all compromises, some concessions were made in order to move the bill along. For example, schools would only need to serve whole-grain rich grains 80 percent of the time. Dropping from 100 to 80 percent brings policymakers and advocates from both sides closer together while maintaining a nutritious meal program.
Despite a few concessions, this bill represents a huge step forward in ensuring all our students have access to nutritious food in schools. “This bill ensures that the national child nutrition programs will continue to provide more than 30 million students across the country with healthy school meals,” said Rochelle Davis, HSC President and CEO. “This bill presents an opportunity to maintain policy that will bring healthier food to the children who need it the most.”
This week’s vote is the first step towards fortifying the law; stay tuned for more information as the bill proceeds in Congress.
It’s not too late to let your representatives know you stand for healthy school food—this food fight is far from over. Healthy Schools Campaign stands for healthy school food, and we’re asking you to stand with us. We’ve made it easy for you to send a letter to your Congressional representatives by simply entering your ZIP code via the following link. You can use or revise the templated letter that we’ve created, or write your own. Start your letter here.