Saturday, July 31, 2010


School feeding program is considered a socially driven necessity with multi-dimensional impact. Billions of dollars are invested in these national programs run in many countries with a fond hope that the health of children, growing to become the responsible citizens of tomorrow, is not adversely affected due to negligence. In a country like India school feeding is more targeted, the major objective being improving attendance. A rich country like the US is very much concerned with school feeding and this has to be understood against the present health crisis facing the country with over weight and obese population approaching the fearsome 40% mark. Probably it may be an indirect reflection of the shirking of parental responsibility because most well to do parents do not inculcate the habit of consuming balanced foods at home. Schools provide an ideal avenue for "guiding" the children regarding good and bad foods. Banning of vending machines and junk foods in schools can help to some extent in reforming the eating habits but to what extent such efforts can replace parental responsibility remains to be seen.

"The bill is a top priority for the Obama Administration and a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign to end the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. "There is no better investment--no better stimulus to our economy--than feeding this nation's children healthy and well," said well-known chef and Top Chef host, Tom Colicchio before Congress yesterday. "Let's fund school lunches and breakfasts at a spending level that significantly raises the quality and variety of what schools can afford, and get rid of junk food in vending machines once and for all. "We are on the brink of a national health crisis that is affecting our youngest children," said committee chairman George Miller (D-CA) at the hearing. Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Nearly one in three children is obese."

"We want to empower schools to help improve meal quality, to change children's lives and take the issue of children's health seriously," said Miller, as he outlined four central tenets of the bill: (1) increase access to healthy food during the school day, (2) improve food safety and recall process in schools, (3) increase the reimbursement rate for school meals for the first time in 30 years, (4) extend nutrition programs to meet needs beyond the traditional school year. On top of targeting both obesity and hunger crises facing millions of Americans eligible for federal nutritional programs, the bill contains specific food safety language. The legislation responds directly to a September Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found a lack of coordination in communicating food safety problems to schools. The bill calls for improved communication to speed notification of recalled school foods consistent with GAO recommendations and ensuring all food service employees have access to food safety training to prevent and identify food-borne illness such as through Web-based training.

Food safety is assuming serious proportion in the US with massive recalls involving billions of dollars suspected to be contaminated or safety compromised and the credibility of the food security system is increasingly coming under the scanner. The health dimension to the food is probably more difficult to comprehend for evolving a definitive proactive policy but the broad contour of any policy must deal with excessive calories, high fat content and higher levels of salt in every day foods one eats. This is where the new administrative dispensation in the US is attempting to bring about far reaching changes.

No comments: