Groups push for better food in school lunches

September 7, 2009 7:58:47 PM PDT
Congress will be looking at school lunch programs when members return from their summer break. The battle is over processed foods versus fruits and vegetables -- some $12 billion and the health of 31 million students are in play. Monday, the folks who say they are part of the "slow food" movement took up the cause across the country.

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Vegetable gardens at local schools have been expanding. Still, first lady Michelle Obama recently said American children are still not eating right and what they are given at school is not ideal.

"You can eat it once in awhile, but if I eat it a lot, I feel kind of guilty and my body is telling me I need more fruits and vegetables," student Jesse Epstein said.

On this Labor Day, the slow food movement organized a potluck to show the kinds of healthy foods that schools should be serving if Congress increased the funds to the school lunch program.

"A lot of kids, that's actually their only guaranteed meal of the day, so about $2.57 is actually given from the Child Nutrition Act to a school lunch reimbursement program per child," Dava Guthmiller of Slow Food San Francisco said.

Guthmiller and others want that reimbursement raised by a dollar per child to help districts serve better lunches. She says now is the time to makes those changes because the Child Nutrition Act expires at the end of the month. Many are pushing Congress to vote to update those nutritional standards.

"Their school board members are going to hear about it, I'm going to hear it from the school board members, I'm going to be talking to Speaker Pelosi about it," State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said. "We all need to be talking to our congressional representatives, because it's Congress that funds the Child Nutrition Act."

Some lawmakers believe there will be changes to the Child Nutrition Act.

Lawmakers have seen the statistics regarding overweight kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of the nation's kids are either overweight or obese.

"And what we are seeing is children who are developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease at alarming rates and way earlier than the previous generation," family physician Dr. Daphne Miller said.

Those chronic diseases could in time overwhelm the nation's health system, Miller said.

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