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Child Nutrition Reauthorization == Shovel Ready Stimulus Funding

Posted Jan 30 2010 6:56am

School Food: Shovel Ready Stimulus at Its Best!

The last few weeks at work in Boulder have been challenging, the Governor’s budget is bleeding and it seems that hundreds of millions of dollars will be cut out of K-12 education over the next two years.  As we all tighten and tighten and yet one more time tighten our proverbial belts; as we discuss cutting food cost and payroll; as I lie awake nights struggling with all of this, the President’s State of the Union became imminent.

But prior to the President’s speech, Debra Eschmeyer wrote a piece in the Huffington Post, The State of the Union’s School Lunch, in which she states:

Don’t make us tighten our belts on child nutrition programs while the girth of the nation grows. The government spends $1 million per soldier in Afghanistan, yet barely spends $1 on the food in a school lunch.

Ms Eschmeyer’s article was great; in fact she did such a good job with the facts, figures and ideas that I’m not going to take the time to repeat them here.   Her article also came on the cusp of all of the potential cuts that have kept me up nights, which kept me thinking about this seemingly desperate situation.  But it really struck a nerve with me, school lunch programs across the country are faced with mounting costs and prospects of reducing the quality of their food as well as the number of staff while as a country we’re spending more and more and more on wars and roads and even clunker cars.

The President’s State of the Union was over 70 minutes long and while listening I was struck by the fact that so much import was being given to stimulating the economy and specifically to increasing jobs for the middle class.  In fact one of the first issues he discusses is his “agenda for jobs,” which becomes one of the major themes of his speech.  As with all of these types of media events, we hear them regurgitated for days and days and this morning at the gym I was watching CNN discuss stimulus money programs across the country and heard over and over that to receive this money, the projects need to be “Shovel Ready.”

So back to my sleepless nights segueing into early morning gym and my thoughts about the National School Lunch Program being the perfect Shovel Ready Stimulus package.  Here’s a place where our tax dollars can be spent that has the ability to help feed hungry children while potentially decreasing their health risks and the looming health care crises in our country.  But beside that lofty goal, we could be spending money that would help to secure jobs for women and men all across the country that are working hard for the health of our children. 

And if all of that isn’t enough benefit, then there’s the food itself.  If we, as Beth Collins and I wrote in an article a few months back, put a priority on fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains regionally procured; we’d be putting much of the money back into the regional economy.  In fact, as shovel ready programs go, supporting school lunch program all across the country would keep people working in their communities, help feed children and keep them healthy and support local food economies – to my mind there’s just not another program so ready to be supported.

In the very near future, Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack will be addressing the nation on the Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.  Perhaps it’s time to make school lunch a priority and spend some stimulus funds on our children, their future and our communities.

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