Kids love pizza, hamburgers and french fries for school lunch, but parents are often reluctant to encourage the purchase of these unhealthy meals. But a new bill that passed in the Senate this week will help reluctant parents with better school lunch choices.
Estimated to cost more than $4 billion, because the federal reimbursement rate will increase six-cents per meal, the new bill will raise standards for all foods sold in schools, including vending machines. In addition, the number of children who qualify for free lunch would rise. The bill still needs to go to the House for consideration.
First lady Michelle Obama praised the bill shortly after the passage, referring to it as a “groundbreaking piece of legislation that will help us provide healthier school meals to children across America” that “will play an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood obesity.”
Instead of removing the unhealthy foods, schools would be required to make substitutions in the manner of low-fat cheeses and whole-grain crusts. Vending machines would have to drop high-sugar sodas and replace them with juices and water drinks. However, the passage of the bill is only the first step.
The ultimate decision on ingredients would rest with the Agriculture Department.
Critics of the program have been vocal about the ability to pay for the bill in light of the need to cut more than $2.2 billion out of future funding for food stamp programs.