An extra $4.5 billion through the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act to support the health of our children while in school, great. Now, the USDA can set nutrition guidelines that will help improve the quality of food provided to our children in school. However, without nutrition education, the knowledge of cooking skills by the school cafeteria workers, and the proper equipment to cook, how are the schools going to satisfy the nutrition guidelines? Are these schools going to continue to serve foods that only need to be reheated and is government subsidized? How much of a difference is there going to be in the foods that the schools offer? I believe that through nutrition education, the teaching of cooking skills and investment in cooking equipment this act would benefit many more children.
Currently, school cafeterias receive discounts or even free commodity crop foods such as corn, soybeans or rice from the USDA. Through the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, the USDA is required to develop conditions for US commodity foods that are used in school meals.1 The act also provides $5 million for mandatory farm-to-school programs. Through these two aspects of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, our school cafeterias will be able to provide more fresh fruits and vegetables and less government subsidized foods like corn products. The only down fall is that most of our school cafeterias don’t have the proper equipment to make food from scratch. Less than half of New York’s 1,385 school kitchens have the proper equipment to sauté, brown or boil over open flame.2
Investing more money into nutrition in school cafeterias is important and I think that in general the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act is a great investment in our children and a step in the right direction. However, using New York as an example of how many schools have the proper equipment to cook fresh foods from scratch, we can not expect that changing the standards of the foods provided in our school cafeterias will increase the amount of fresh meals prepared. I think that in order for this act to have a holistic effect on school cafeterias this act needs to provide the proper cooking equipment and support the education of school cafeteria workers, which is currently not addressed.
- Food Research and Action Center. Summary of School Nutrition Program Provisions in the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010. http://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/cnr_school_nutrition_program_provisions_summary.pdf . Accessed March 2, 2011.
- Severson, K. Schools’ Toughest Test: Cooking. New York Times. September 29, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/dining/30school.html?pagewanted=all. accessed March 7, 2011.