Tomorrow from 11:30am to 1:00pm, join Purple Asparagus in Daley Plaza as we participate in Slow Food's Eat-In to demonstrate our support for getting good, healthful food into our schools.
Sounds great, but what does this mean and why now? Is it because school's right around the corner? While the timing seems right in terms of focusing our attention to this issue, but there's more to it. At the end of September, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, which authorizes all of the federal school meal and child nutrition programs, will expire. Does this mean that children will go hungry if Congress does not reauthorize the law? Not exactly.
The School Breakfast, National School Lunch, and Special Milk Programs are authorized permanently. However, many of the other programs such as the Child and Adult Care Food program, Summer Food Service Program, Afterschool Snack and Meal Program and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC), the WIC Farmers' Market Nutrtition Program and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program are not and would expire without further Congressional action.
Given the surging interest in local, sustainable foods, and the interest we've seen from the White House about this subject, we may finally have an opportunity to improve the foods supplied by the existing programs. We also should advocate for the National Farm to Table Program to finally receive funding. Congress established the Farm to Table Program in 2004, the last time that the Child Nutrition Act was reauthorized, gave it a $10 million authorization but never appropriated any funds to it. It may go without saying to those who read this blog that farm-fresh foods taste better. If the lunches taste better, it's pretty likely that participation in school lunch programs will rise among paying students and adults. Increased participation rates among paying customers means more money for school food services improving the financial viability of the programs.
Improving school lunches isn't just about giving more fortunate children an option to brown bagging it. This programs funded by the Child Nutrition Act make a real difference in lives of many in at-risk communities. According to the latest USDA data, 12.6 million children lived in households facing a constant struggle with hunger. During the 2006-07 school year, 8.1 million low-income children received free or reduced-price breakfast and 17.9 million free or reduced-price lunch. Getting better food in the schools to these children could make a lasting public health change.
If you care about these issues, speak out. Come to the rally tomorrow to join forces with other individuals and organizations who care about these issues. For more detailed information about tomorrow or to order your lunch beforehand, visit Slow Food Chicago's website
If you can't make it tomorrow, consider hosting your own Eat-In on Labor Day. To learn more, visit Slow Food USA's site.
Also, you can support Purple Asparagus's grassroots, on-the-ground programs in the schools by attending our annual fundraiser Corks & Crayons or participate in our online auction. For more details, visit our website. Finally, come to Cooking Up Change on October 29 at Salvage One to show your support for Healthy Schools Campaign, a national advocacy group working on all issues related to health in our schools.
To learn more about the Child Nutrition Act or the Farm to School Initiatives in Reauthorization, visit the Community Food Security Coalition to sign up for their listserv.