Corning, NY – Standing at Alternative School for Math and Science 291, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined by Natasha Thompson from the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, hosted a round table meeting and discussed the fight against the latest efforts to weaken school nutrition standards, as well as the push to ensure students get fresh fruit and vegetables at school.
Congress will debate child nutrition standards and school meals next week, as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is set to expire. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was a landmark achievement for improving what cafeterias serve children. Under the law, in order for school meals to be eligible for federal reimbursement, one of the main requirements is that they must contain at least ½ cup serving of fresh fruit and vegetables. The authorization for USDA’s core child nutrition programs: the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program is also set to expire in September and must be renewed this year. Gillibrand is also pushing to expand purchases from local food producers, particularly fresh fruit and vegetable growers and suppliers, to provide nutritious school meals and also raise students’ awareness of local agriculture.
“As we debate child nutrition standards, we need to make access and serving healthy food at our schools a priority,” said Senator Gillibrand, the first New York Senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. “By preserving nutrition programs and standards at school, we are not only ensuring our kids are eating nutritious food, we are also expanding opportunities for our local farmers.
“The Food Bank of the Southern Tier works tirelessly with our network of over 150 partner agencies to address hunger in our six-county service area,” said Natasha Thompson, President & CEO of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.” However, despite our best efforts, the reality is that charities cannot address this problem on our own. If we are to ever move the needle with respect to child hunger here in this community and across the nation, we must develop better partnerships between non-profits, health care, education, business and government. This is why we are honored to have the support of Senator Gillibrand on the current Child Nutrition Reauthorization to ensure that all children have access to nutritious food that they need to grow and thrive.”
Child Nutrition Standards Set To Expire
The most recent Child Nutrition Reauthorization process concluded when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) was signed into law on December 13, 2010. The HHFKA made substantial improvements to Child Nutrition by:
- Increasing reimbursement rates paid for school meals by $0.06.
- Updating school nutrition standards and standards for all food sold in competition with school lunches such as food sold in vending machines.
- Encouraging farm-to-school initiatives and other obesity reducing programs;
- Introducing new physical activity standards;
- Expanding support for food service programs to include summer programs, afterschool, and outside of school programs;
- Establishing new guidelines for school food safety;
The HHFKA and its child nutrition standards are set to expire on September 30, 2015. As Congress begins to debate renewing these programs Senator Gillibrand will be advocating for the following priorities:
- Give more children healthy summer meals by expanding access to the USDA Summer Food Service Program.
- Reduce red tape and make it easier for existing after school meal providers to sponsor Summer Meal programs.
- Strengthen the ties between farmers, producers, and meal service providers by bolstering Farm-to-School programs.
- Preserve existing nutrition standards including the requirement of fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
- Help school nutrition professionals meet their professional standard requirements, support peer mentorship programs, and provide grants for improved kitchen equipment that enable the preparation of healthy, appetizing meals that children will truly enjoy.
- Improve student participation rates in the School Breakfast Program.