School Lunch Bill Provides More Funding, Healthier Choices
12/16/2010 1:19:48 PM
On Monday December 13, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a $4.5 billion expansion of the school lunch program. The bill adds 6 cents per reimbursed school meal, the first noninflationary increase in federal reimbursement of school lunches in more than 30 years. The increase is intended to provide funding to help schools increase the nutritional standards of federally-subsidized lunches. Additionally, the bill increases the number of children eligible for fully or partially reimbursed meals by 115,000 and streamlines the process of receiving free or reduced-price lunches.
The bill also gives the USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, including vending machines, and requires audits every three years to ensure compliance with nutritional standards. A sample menu showing elementary school meals before and after the bill shows that meals such as pizza sticks with marinara sauce with a banana, raisins and whole milk will be changed to meals such as chef salad featuring low-fat mozzarella and grilled chicken with a whole wheat soft pretzel, cooked corn, baby carrots, a banana, skim chocolate milk and low-fat dressing. The bill also aims to source some foods in school lunches from local farms and create school gardens.
Michelle Obama has heavily supported the bill as part of her initiative to reduce childhood obesity and improve child nutrition. She released a statement saying “We can all agree that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, all children should have the basic nutrition they need to learn and grow and to pursue their dreams, because in the end, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. Nothing. And our hopes for their future should drive every single decision that we make.”
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition and Family Farms, was a strong supporter of the bill. The director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association in Colombus, Damon F. Asbury, mentioned concerns about whether the bill provides sufficient funding to offset the increased costs of implementing the new standards.
Tags: Children, Healthy Eating, Education, Obesity, Poverty, School
Hope for High School Graduation
12/2/2010 12:21:52 PM
While high school dropout rates continue at epidemic levels in American high schools, recent research suggests that change may be in sight. A new report from America’s Promise Alliance, titled, “Building a Grad Nation,” provides evidence that trends in high school graduation rates may be improving. Overall, the high school graduation rate nationwide rose from 72 percent in 2002 to 75 percent in 2008. This trend has been fueled by multiple factors, including the concurrent 13 percent decrease in the number of “dropout factory” high schools nationwide. These schools, defined by graduation rates of 60 percent or less, produce half of the nation’s dropouts each year. Also encouraging is the distribution of improvement across states. While a few states with improvement rates as high as 15 percent are in part responsible for the rising national average, more than half the states (29 in total) also reported significant improvements, and only three states experienced noticeable declines. This distribution suggests a nationwide movement toward improving education outcomes.
Ohio’s performance in the report was somewhat mixed. The state ranked 32nd out of 50 in progress toward improving high school graduation rates. The state reported a 1.5 percent increase in the high school graduation rate, bringing the rate to 79 percent in 2008. While this is slightly above the national average of 75 percent, it is still an unacceptably low graduation rate, particularly when compared to other Midwestern states (e.g. Wisconsin) which boasted a graduation rate of almost 90 percent in 2008. An encouraging trend, however, is found in Ohio’s success in improving or eliminating dropout factory high schools. Ohio, which reported a net decrease of 12 dropout schools (from 75 in 2002 to 68 in 2008), was one of the top seven states reporting significant decreases in dropout factory high schools.
Despite this trend toward improvement, however, the authors of the “Building a Grad Nation” are only cautiously optimistic, and emphasize the importance of continued efforts to improve graduation rates in successful states and increased attention to states in which dropout rates remain high.
To read more about “Building a Grad Nation,” including the original report, click here.
Tor read a recent New York Times Article discussing dropout trends, click here.
Tags: Children, Education, School