I left you hanging on my adventures this week, and apologize for being such a sporadic blogger.
I did not get invited to the White House nor to the Oval Office, but I’m working on it. I was, however, invited to the Rayburn House Office right across the street from the White House and got to go through a separate security line than normal visitors. So cool! As you know, my work with the American Dietetic Association is focused around nutrition policies and there is quite a bit of action happening. The meeting on Monday was hosted by Congressmen Holt and Loebsack, focusing on the Health Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307) aka the Child Nutrition Reauthorization. I learned an incredible amount about the negotiation system behind politics and a bit more about how this will be paid for. A bit of controversy has circulated in the House about the financing, because this act will take money away from SNAP benefits. However, a letter was released by the House on Monday encouraging the passage of this bill and ensuring that the current Administration will work to restore any benefits used from SNAP funds.
The meeting was not intended for anyone working in the field or lobbying for this cause, but instead as a last ditch effort to convince members of Congress to bring this issue to the table. The room was filled with staffers and legislative assistants. The tone was one of urgency. Representatives from Feeding America. WIC, Nemours Health System and a local school district all spoke on different provisions of the bill and their importance. What I think is important for our community to understand is that this ill increases investments in child nutrition by $4.5 billion over 10 years. This money will be used to create USDA nutritional standards for food sold outside of the meal programs (like in the a la carte line and vending machines), based on sugar, calories and saturated fat content. It will improve the nutritional quality of meals, will increase the training to food service workers and will hold schools accountable for the food served. It will also create new wellness policies that focus on nutrition education and physical activity through local school districts. All incredibly important issues for ending child hunger and helping to curb the obesity epidemic.
I left the meeting feeling somewhat helpless. I didn’t know what I could do to make a difference.
My afternoon was occupied with a virtual town hall hosted by Feeding America. The call included Congressman George Miller, Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Tom Colicciho of “Top Chef.” It was incredible to hear such influential voices on this issue. I think Tom Colicciho said it best, “How can you possibly educate a child when they go to school on an empty stomach? It shouldn’t be a political issue.” This call also stressed the importance of grassroots efforts. The work being done within the DC beltway is not going to be what gets this bill on the agenda. It’s people like you, calling your local representatives, that will make the difference. I know my blog has taken a political spin since I’ve moved to DC, and it seems almost impossible to avoid considering my line of work. But this is my plea. Please, please take five minutes and call your Representative. This number: 1-877-698-8228 will ask you to enter your zip code and will connect you to your congressional representative. Ask them to vote childhood hunger and obesity by voting for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This is your opportunity to make a difference in the lives of millions of children that obtain between 20-45% of their calories from school breakfast and lunch each day.