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New Federal Funding Means Free, Healthy School Lunches

Thanks to a $4.5 billion measure signed into law by President Obama, more public school children will have access to free nutritious lunches and even dinners at school.

The $4.5 billion 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.

Many Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have criticized the effort and the fundraiser limits in particular, saying the bill is too expensive and an example of government overreach.

Supporters say the law is needed to stem rising health care costs due to expanding American waistlines and to feed hungry children in tough economic times. Mrs. Obama cited a group of former generals and military officials who have said unhealthy school lunches are a national security threat because weight problems are now the leading medical reason that recruits are rejected.

I would also add that research has shown that a well-nourished population is healthier and more productive. Schools have reported that well-nourished students boast higher attendance rates, are more attentive and better behaved with an increased energy level -- all factors tied to academic success.


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