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Possible School Lunch Improvements

School lunches could change if a bipartisan bill expected to come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate becomes law. (keyseeker/morguefile.com)
School lunches could change if a bipartisan bill expected to come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate becomes law. (keyseeker/morguefile.com)
February 1, 2016

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - Members of the U.S. Senate are working on a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize child nutrition programs, including the national school lunch and breakfast programs for the next five years. Among the changes, the legislation includes funding for expanded kitchen equipment to enable staff to prepare fresh-cooked meals for students.

Claire DiMattina, executive director with the advocacy group Food Policy Action, says this comes after a trend of school districts centralizing food preparation and utilizing frozen meals and vegetables.

"Because we're talking about serving fresh fruits and vegetables and heart-healthy meals and meals with less sodium and some of those things you just can't serve if you don't have a place to prepare them," says DiMattina.

The legislation also would require that 80 percent of grains served in schools are whole grain and it puts in place sodium-reduction requirements. Once lawmakers are back in session, the bill will have to be added to the calendar to be considered by the full Senate.

The bill also doubles funding for the Farm to School Grant Program, streamlines summer meal coordination and expands summer meal programs. DiMattina says if passed, the legislation would have a direct impact on children in the state.

"For a lot of those kids, these are one or two of the only healthy, nutritious and hopefully delicious meals they're having every day," she says. "So, it's important that we're providing meals that are healthy, that they want to eat, that are providing the necessary nutrients."

The former Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that went into effect in 2010 has been criticized for encouraging a menu with food many children won't eat. This bill is the reauthorization of that legislation and includes some changes.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV