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Published February 01, 2011, 09:05 AM

Nutrition bill good, but could be better

SAN FRANCISCO — The child-nutrition bill signed into law by President Obama in December is less than ideal.

SAN FRANCISCO — The child-nutrition bill signed into law by President Obama in December is less than ideal.

It provides only 6 cents more per subsidized meal for low-income students. Almost half of its $4.5 billion cost in the next decade will come from a cut in the food-stamp program — though Obama assured Democrats he will find a way to restore that funding.

Funding shortfall

We would have preferred Congress accompany the mandate for more healthful school lunches with more than a few extra pennies. Taking money from the well-documented waste in federal agricultural subsidies would have been preferable to raiding one anti-hunger program to fund another.

The good part

Still, there is plenty to like in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, whose leading advocates included first lady Michelle Obama and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. The bill expands the pool of low-income children eligible for free and reduced-price meals — and the offerings will include more fruits and vegetables and less salt, starch and fat. Equally significant, the federal government will stop subsidizing junk food and sugary drinks sold a la carte or in vending machines.

The new law also will restrict school administrators from diverting funds meant for lunches to “indirect” overhead costs.

The bill is not perfect, but it’s a good step forward in a long-neglected area.

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