President Obama has signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law. The bill, signed Monday, is a priority of the First Lady and reauthorizes child nutrition programs for five years. The bill includes $4.5 billion in new programs over 10 years.
The measure increases the federal reimbursement for free school lunches by 6 cents a meal at a time when many school officials say they can't afford to provide the meals. The bill will also expand access to free lunch programs and allow 20 million additional after-school meals to be served annually in all 50 states. Most states now only provide money for after-school snacks.
The new law aims to cut down on greasy foods and extra calories by giving the government power to decide what kinds of foods may be sold on school grounds, including in vending machines and at fundraisers. While the government has long had nutrition requirements for the free and reduced cost meals it subsidizes, the bill would expand those requirements to cover all foods sold during school hours. It does not apply to after-school events.
Bake sales and other fundraisers that don't meet the new nutritional requirements would be allowed during the school day as long as they are infrequent.
Popular foods like hamburgers and pizza will likely stay on school lunch lines but become healthier, made with leaner meat or whole wheat crust, for example. Vending machines could be stocked with less candy and fewer high-calorie drinks.
Among other things, the bill will give the USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools during the school day, including vending machines, the “a la carte” lunch lines, and school stores. The legislation also provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches.
Source: American Meat Institute, Associated Press