By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director
When it comes down to it, one of the biggest indicators of an
administration's priorities is where it spends money. And for the first
time in my memory, we have an administration that is prioritizing
children's health. The budget that President Obama presented today makes school food and school environments real priorities.
Yes, this budget is brutal. Yes, cuts are everywhere. And no, we're not going to go back to the moon.
However, this presidential budget shows at least two significant line
items that will make a difference in health of students.
Healthy School Food
This is a critical year in the movement for healthy school food, and
President Obama's budget allocates significant and much-needed
resources to that effort. The Child Nutrition
Act is up for reauthorization, and we've been joining advocates
nationwide in speaking up for increased federal funding for better
school food — about a dollar per meal more than schools currently
receive. The place to start is the budget.
It looks like the president
has kept his commitment to making the largest ever increase to the
Nutrition Program, dedicating $10 billion over 10 years for a strong
Child Nutrition and WIC reauthorization.
While this is good news for school food, especially given the cuts and spending freezes we're seeing elsewhere – it's still not enough to solve all deficiencies with school meals. The truth of the matter is that this will only account for maybe 20 cents more per meal. So the trick now is to not only make sure this money isn't whittled away, but also find even more.
Healthy School Environments
As long as I can
remember, school environmental programs have been viewed as boutique
programs for local schools to adopt. And while the EPA has been a great
resource in helping schools get the information they need, a
dramatically under-funded voluntary program can only help so much. The
reality is that without help from the Dep.t of Education, the EPA is
limited in what it can do.
With this budget, we see that for the first time resources may be
directed to promoting a “healthier school environment” and to integrate
EPA and DoE resources. Take a look at page 10:
(FY 2011 PB: $6.3M, FY 2010 Enacted: $0.1M, FY 2011 Change: +$6.2M)
- Requests a $6.2 million increase to create healthier school environments for all children.
- EPA will co-lead an interagency effort in integrating existing
school programs including asthma, indoor air quality, chemical clean
out, green practices and enhanced use of integrated pest management.
- Promotes safe handling and management of PCB-containing caulk in schools and build
- necessary regional technical support and outreach to effectively
implement site-specific cleanup and disposal plans. Assesses the
impacts of non-compliance with existing environmental laws on health
risks in schools.
- Increases technical assistance on voluntary Energy Independence
Security Act (EISA) school siting and environmental health guidelines.
Now it's our turn to tell our legislators that these are the right priorities — and the funding has to follow.