MN PTA President Heather Starks, Vice-President Amy Nelson and Advocacy Commissioner Cathy Nathan attended the National PTA Legislative Convention in Washington DC March 10-12. On March 11, they visited offices of Minnesota’s Senators and Representatives to lobby on behalf of legislation that supports our member students, parents, teachers and schools. . This post gives information about one of our Hill Asks this year: Improve the federal school meal program through Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR).
National PTA has always recognized that children need access to nutritious meals in order to thrive in and out of the classroom, and we have a proud legacy of leading the federal school meal program. Our advocacy was instrumental in the adoption of the original child nutrition legislation, the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act of 1946. Since that time, we have continuously pushed Congress to fulfill its responsibility to ensure that our nation’s vulnerable children are provided healthy school meals.
• We urge Congress to reassert its authority over the federal school meal program and reauthorize the child nutrition program to ensure food served in schools meets the highest nutritional standards. Over the last few years, the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 has been subject to repeated regulatory rollbacks, weakening standards for milk, whole grains and sodium served to children.
• Food consumed at school can make up half of a child’s daily calorie intake—and even more for the 22 million children who participate in the free and reduced-price school meal program. For this reason, it’s essential that school meals and snacks meet nutrition standards aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) for fruits and vegetables, sodium and whole grains, milk and added sugars.
• No child should be denied a school meal or otherwise shamed because of an unpaid school meal bill. Reauthorization of CNR must include language from the Anti-Lunch Shaming Act (H.R. 2311/S. 1119) to prohibit the stigmatization of children who are unable to pay for meals.
• The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends students have at least 20 minutes for “seat time” for lunch during the school day. Students who have more time for lunch, increase their consumption of food and key nutrients, include fruits and vegetables and decrease of plate waste. Congress should include the Healthy Meal Time Act (H.R. 5463) in CNR to help districts and schools implement best practices for meal times.
• Congress must include the School Food Modernization Act (H.R.3444/S.1949) in CNR. Many school kitchens were built decades ago without adequate capacity for procuring, storing, refrigerating, preparing and serving the nutritious foods they would like to offer today. This bill will give school districts and food service administrators the tools and resources they need to prepare meals that meet robust nutrition standards and provide wholesome, delicious meals that children will enjoy.