Nutritious School Lunches for All
Dear Senator Johnson:
I am writing to you as a constituent to call your attention to the important issue of school lunch nutrition, and to urge you to introduce and support legislation that requires school lunches to meet basic nutrition standards.
Sometimes when I babysit, kids don’t like the meals I prepare for them. They scrunch their noses and whine “ewww!” at the nutritious food on their plates; but then I explain to them how carrots make their eyesight sharper, yogurt makes their bones stronger, and whole-grain pasta gives them the energy to play. Wanting to be strong and healthy, the kids listen and eat up.
Nutrition is essential for kids’ health. Eating well makes kids less sick, and improves behavior and cognition in class. Currently, the National School Lunch Program, which is run by the federal government, serves lunch to more than 31 million students every school day. In Wisconsin, during the 2015-2016 school year, nearly 87,000,000 lunches were served through the National School Lunch Program, with nearly 5,000,000 at a reduced price, and over 45,000,000 free. With over half of American public school students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, it is essential that these lunches be nourishing.
As I’m sure you know, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 raised nutritional standards to make school lunches healthier. Contrary to inaccurate media coverage, these changes resulted in better eating habits and less food waste in American schools. They were fairly popular with parents and are leading to positive systemic changes.
Healthy school lunches are an essential part of American kids’ health, and, as a society, our priority should be the well-being of our children as a moral imperative. As former First Lady Michelle Obama said at a public health summit in Washington DC, “Why don’t you want our kids to have good food at school? What is wrong with you? And why is that a partisan issue?” The health of young students should be a top priority for everyone, on both sides of the aisle. If that’s not convincing enough, according to a 2015 study published in Health Affairs, investing in school lunch nutrition saves money, as it would have a net cost of $6,436,000,000 and prevent 1,815,966 cases of childhood obesity by 2025.
Disturbingly, in early May, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue rolled back years of progress on this issue. His so-called effort to “make school meals great again” moves us backward and puts kids at risk by taking away important improvements. Clearly, he is motivated not by the health of our children, but by food corporations that profit from hurting kids' health. Senator Johnson, please do not follow in Secretary Perdue’s footsteps. Instead, you must fight for our children’s wellbeing.
When I think of the adorable kids I babysit, I want them to eat the best food possible so they can be as healthy and as happy as possible. While I wish we could move forward and build upon the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, at this point my greatest concern is moving backward, which Secretary Perdue has already initiated. Luckily, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, school administrators are keeping their healthy lunches despite Secretary Perdue’s policy changes. Many students across the state of Wisconsin, however, will not be so lucky. Furthermore, attacks on school lunches continue, with a bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would drastically decrease school lunch accessibility for low-income students.
Senator Johnson, I urge you to represent Wisconsin in the fight for the health of our kids, and oppose congressional efforts to gut school lunch programs. Put simply, we need to provide food for our nation’s children, and that food needs to be nutritious. I hope that you will be an advocate for our children’s health and well-being moving forward.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Biskowitz, Sarah. "Nutritious School Lunches for All." 30 June 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 17, 2021) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/nutritious-school-lunches-for-all>.