School lunches: The political hot potato

3 Nov

There are some very good reasons why meals are provided at schools. Education Bug has a history of the school lunch program

President Harry S. Truman began the national school lunch program in 1946 as a measure of national security. He did so after reading a study that revealed many young men had been rejected from the World War II draft due to medical conditions caused by childhood malnutrition. Since that time more than 180 million lunches have been served to American children who attend either a public school or a non-profit private school.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (Agriculture Department) has a School Lunch Program Fact Sheet

According to the fact sheet, more than 30 million children are fed by the program. Physicians for Responsible Medicine criticize the content of school lunch programs

In Healthy School Lunches the physicians group says:    

Menus in most school lunch programs are too high in saturated fat and cholesterol and too low in fiber- and nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (see PCRM’s 2008 SchoolLunch Report Card). Major changes are needed to encourage the health of the nation’s youth and to reverse the growing trends of obesity, early-onset diabetes, and hypertension, among other chronic diseases, in children and teens.  

A 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) reached the same conclusion. See, School Lunch Program: Efforts Needed to Improve Nutrition and Encourage and Healthy Eating

The school lunch program is crucial for the nutritional well-being of many children. Catholic Online is reporting in the article, Nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population was on food stamps for month of August:

It was a harsh indicator of hard times here in the United States. Nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population relied on food stamps for the month of August, as the number of recipients hit 45.8 million. Food stamp rolls have risen 8.1 percent in the past year. The Department of Agriculture reported these startling new figures, that fly in face that the pace of growth has slowed from the depths of the recession….

Mississippi reported the largest share of food stamps recipients, more than 21 percent. One in five residents in New Mexico, Tennessee, Oregon and Louisiana were also food stamp recipients.

http://www.catholic.org/business/story.php?id=43506

For many children who receive a free breakfast and/or a free lunch that means that they will not go hungry that day. See, Taking the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge [UPDATED] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-jan-schakowsky/taking-the-congressional_b_1072739.html

Education is the key for moving individuals, families, and communities out of poverty. In an ideal world, children would arrive at school ready-to-learn. Children who are hunger have a much more difficult time focusing in school. For a really good discussion of the effects of poverty on children, read the American Psychological Association (APA), Effects of Poverty, Hunger, and Homelessness on Children and Youth:

What are the effects of child poverty?

  • Psychological research has demonstrated that living in poverty has a wide range of negative effects on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our nation’s children.
  • Poverty impacts children within their various contexts at home, in school, and in their neighborhoods and communities.
  • Poverty is linked with negative conditions such as substandard housing, homelessness, inadequate nutrition and food insecurity, inadequate child care, lack of access to health care, unsafe neighborhoods, and underresourced schools which adversely impact our nation’s children.
  • Poorer children and teens are also at greater risk for several negative outcomes such as poor academic achievement, school dropout, abuse and neglect, behavioral and socioemotional problems, physical health problems, and developmental delays.
  • These effects are compounded by the barriers children and their families encounter when trying to access physical and mental health care.
  • Economists estimate that child poverty costs the U.S. $500 billion a year in lost productivity in the work force and spending on health care and the criminal justice system.

Poverty and academic achievement

  • Poverty has a particularly adverse effect on the academic outcomes of children, especially during early childhood.
  • Chronic stress associated with living in poverty has been shown to adversely affect children’s concentration and memory which may impact their ability to learn.
  • School drop out rates are significantly higher for teens residing in poorer communities. In 2007, the dropout rate of students living in low-income families was about 10 times greater than the rate of their peers from high-income families (8.8% vs. 0.9%).
  • The academic achievement gap for poorer youth is particularly pronounced for low-income African American and Hispanic children compared with their more affluent White peers.
  • Underresourced schools in poorer communities struggle to meet the learning needs of their students and aid them in fulfilling their potential.
  • Inadequate education contributes to the cycle of poverty by making it more difficult for low-income children to lift themselves and future generations out of poverty.

http://www.apa.org/pi/families/poverty.aspx

Ron Nixon has a report in the New York Times about the political wrangling about the school lunch program. In the article, School Lunch Proposals Set Off a Dispute, Nixon reports:

The government has some thoughts on how to make the federally financed school lunch program more nutritious: A quarter-cup of tomato paste on pizza will no longer be considered a vegetable. Cut back on potatoes and add more fresh peaches, apples, spinach and broccoli. And hold the salt.

The proposed changes — the first in 15 years to the $11 billion school-lunch program — are meant to reduce rising childhood obesity, Agriculture Department officials say. Food companies including Coca-Cola, Del Monte Foods and the makers of frozen pizza and French fries have a huge stake in the new guidelines and many argue that it would raise the cost of meals and call for food that too many children just will not eat…

According to a Harvard School of Public Health study, published this year in The New England Journal of Medicine, starchy carbohydrates like those in potatoes are responsible for many of the nation’s health problems, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. French fries and potato chips are the worst uses of the potato, but even boiled potatoes contribute to weight gain, the study found….

Schools that serve more than 60 percent of their lunches for free or reduced prices are reimbursed $2.79 per meal by the federal government. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus worry that that might not be enough to cover the additional cost of preparing healthier meals in low-income districts.

The House has passed a bill directing the Agriculture Department to basically start over with a new proposal while the Senate has restricted the department from cutting back on potatoes.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/02/us/school-lunch-proposals-set-off-a-dispute.html

The challenge is getting kids to eat the food mandated by the rules and for school districts to find “kid tasty” foods which are affordable. A Child’s health is too important to be the subject of tawdry political wrangling and high pressure tactics from big money interests. Our goal as a society should be:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

5 Responses to “School lunches: The political hot potato”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Do kids get enough time to eat lunch? « drwilda - August 28, 2012

    […] School lunches: The political hot potato https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/school-lunches-the-political-hot-potato/ […]

  2. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Report: Improving access to school lunches « drwilda - September 9, 2012

    […] Inadequate education contributes to the cycle of poverty by making it more difficult for low-income children to lift themselves and future generations out of poverty. http://www.apa.org/pi/families/poverty.aspx https://drwilda.com/2011/11/03/school-lunches-the-political-hot-potato/ […]

  3. Some school lunch programs opting out of school lunch program | drwilda - August 29, 2013

    […] A 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) reached the same conclusion. See, School Lunch Program: Efforts Needed to Improve Nutrition and Encourage and Healthy Eating http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-506 https://drwilda.com/2011/11/03/school-lunches-the-political-hot-potato/ […]

  4. Brigham Young University study: Paying kids gets them to eat vegetables | drwilda - December 21, 2013

    […] A 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) reached the same conclusion. See, School Lunch Program: Efforts Needed to Improve Nutrition and Encourage and Healthy Eating http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-506 https://drwilda.com/2011/11/03/school-lunches-the-political-hot-potato/ […]

  5. Harvard study: kids are eating the healthier lunches | drwilda - March 24, 2014

    […] A 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) reached the same conclusion. See, School Lunch Program: Efforts Needed to Improve Nutrition and Encourage and Healthy Eating http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-506 https://drwilda.com/2011/11/03/school-lunches-the-political-hot-potato/ […]

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