The Congressional lame-duck session has been anything but lame (or tame) this time around!
But behind the speeches and theatrics, we can actually come away feeling pretty good about some of the outcomes and proposals, specifically let’s look at the passage of Child Nutrition Reauthorization through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Here’s a breakdown:
- A $4.5 billion child nutrition bill that improves lunches in schools and expand feeding programs for low-income students.
- The legislation would increase the number of children who receive free or low-cost lunches at school.
- It also increases the amount of money schools are reimbursed by 6 cents a meal.
- The First Lady Michelle Obama lobbied for new school lunch standards as part of her "Let's Move" campaign to combat childhood obesity.
- The standards would not remove popular foods like hamburgers from schools but would make them healthier, using leaner meat or whole wheat buns, for example.
- School vending machines could also be stocked with less candy and fewer high-calorie drinks.
But behind all this good news there is some very bad news. The bill was paid for by cutting SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits. According to Texans Care For Children, “In February 2010, over 1.8 million Texas children under the age of 17 received SNAP benefits, over a third of whom were under age five.”
Perhaps now you can begin to see the huge irony our lawmakers have created by paying for healthy lunches by cutting food benefits. We must now rally to ask Congress to restore SNAP cuts. Please see a template letter below and please consider sending it on to your elected official. The children of Texas need your voice!
Another bill to watch is the Healthy Food and Financing Initiative, supported by North Texas Rep. Michael Burgess of District 26. This bill, supported by both parties in the House and Senate, hopes to address the issue of food deserts by building grocery stores in underserved areas, which will also create jobs in construction and the grocery business.
“Americans living in some communities face substantive challenges accessing fresh foods and lack the opportunity to make healthy food choices for themselves and their family,” said Republican Rep. Michael C. Burgess, in a press release.
If you remember, I addressed food deserts in May’s issue of Food for Thought and am very encouraged to see new, national attention on the subject.
You can let Rep. Burgess know you too are concerned by food deserts and hope to also see access to good, healthy foods for all citizens by contacting his office here. (The zip code for Denton county is 76201.)
Up next, look for more political action in the Texas legislature as they battle through a $20-plus billion budget deficit. We will definitely need your voice to help remind our state legislators that hunger is here in our own backyard, so look for more updates to come.
In the meantime, have a happy holiday and please consider a gift to the North Texas Food Bank. We’re working hard to feed your neighbors and, don’t forget, $1 = 4 meals.
President and CEO