Part three of a four-part series, in which we present the food issues we anticipate will affect American consumers the most in 2010.
By Courtney Brein, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow
The Child Nutrition Act comes up for reauthorization every five years. The legislation, which covers all federal child nutrition programs (a group that includes the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Services Program, the After School Snack and Meal Program, and WIC) is permanently authorized, but the periodic reauthorization allows Congress to make changes where needed. The Act came up for reauthorization on September 30, 2009, but, in light of more pressing issues on the table, Congress voted to extend the current school food program, with only minor modifications (such as additional funding for summer meals, infrastructure, and automatic enrollment) for one year, postponing the process to 2010.
As a member of the National Alliance for Nutrition & Activity, the National Consumers League supports a series of reauthorization recommendations for improving the nutritional quality of food both served to and chosen by children. Priority lists put forth by the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) contain additional, important suggestions for improving the diets of the nation’s youngest generation, both now and in the future.
Consumers both young and old benefit from improvements to the federal child nutrition programs. Students eating breakfast and lunch at school and over the summer; children and elderly adults eating meals and snacks in day care; and pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and young children participating in the WIC program all directly benefit from nutritional improvements, nutrition education, and increased access to food. As previously mentioned, NAHO and others report research findings that adequate, nutritious food plays a fundamental role in a child’s physical, cognitive, academic, emotional, and social development, and childhood hunger impedes individuals’ ability to compete in today’s workforce, while increasing their health costs. Passing meaningful Child Nutrition Reauthorization in 2010 will not only improve the quality of school foods, accessibility to healthier foods, and understanding of healthy choices, but will help to chip away at childhood hunger and improve the health and competitiveness of our nation’s citizens.