Cut the funding for the school lunch program? Just a few short years ago this subject was unthinkable, but today’s dismal economy and spiraling national debt are forcing our legislators to boldly go where few lawmakers have dared to tread― to consider budget cuts that may directly affect many of our once “sacred” entitlement programs. For example, on April 18 of this year the House Agriculture Committee passed the Agricultural Reconciliation Act of 2012, cutting over $33 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly food stamp benefits) over the next decade. About one-third of these cuts, an estimated $11.5 billion, come from tightening restrictions on “categorical eligibility,” a “short-cut” that enables states to better coordinate between programs and improve access to assistance for low-income families. By restricting this provision, the bill would kick an average of 1.8 million low-income people a year off of food aid and end automatic enrollment in free school meals for 280,000 children from low-income families.1 It is self-evident that difficult decisions and bold actions such as this will be necessary to curb government spending and put the Nation back on the road to fiscal stability; however we must be careful to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children. For the past 60 years, the National School Lunch Program has alleviated hunger and malnutrition among the nation’s children and since its inception in 1946, the school lunch program has served as a tool to promote nutrition; healthy child development, health and growth; and school readiness.
The NSLP had its origin in the 1946 National School Lunch Act, with the Declaration of Purpose:
“It is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress, as a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation 's
References: 1. Congressional Budget Office. (2012). Agricultural Reconciliation Act of 2012. Available at: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/HouseAgricultureReconcil iation.pdf. Retrieved September 18, 2012 2. United States Department of Agriculture: Food and Nutrition Service. (2012). National School Lunch Program. Available at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/AboutLunch/ProgramHistory_5.htm. Retrieved September 18, 2012. 3. Congressional Research Service. (2009). Child Nutrition and WIC Programs: A Brief Overview. Available at: http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/crs/R40397.pdf. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 4. United States Department of Agriculture: Food and Nutrition Service. (2012). Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act of 2010. Available at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns/images/top-nav/top- navbar.gif. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 5. J.T. Cook and D.A. Frank. (2008). Food security, poverty, and human development in the United States. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1136:193-209. 6. P. Engle and S.L. Huffman (2010). Growing children’s bodies and minds: Maximizing child nutrition and development. Food and Nutrition Bulletin. 31(2 Supplement). 7. T.A. Hastert and S.H. Babey (2009). School lunch source and adolescent dietary behavior. Preventing Chronic Disease. 6(4):A117. 8. K. Ralston, C. Newman, A. Clauson, J. Guthrie, J.C. Bizby (2008). The national school lunch program background, trends, and issues. Economic Research Report. 61:56. 9. United States Department of Agriculture: Nutrition and Consumer Services. (2012). USDA Report Outlines Food Insecurity in America. Available at: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/!ut/p/c5/04. Retrieved September 18, 2012.