Child Nutrition Act cut in half

Not much of a surprise for those of us who’ve been watching this bill — last week, the Senate voted to cut President Obama’s proposed budget for the School Nutrition Act in half, from $10 billion to $4.5 billion.

$4.5 billion sounds like a lot, just like $10 billion sounds like a lot, so let’s try and break it down once more. What does $4.5 billion in school lunch funding look like, over the course of ten years?

In a program this big, it means an increase of around 6 to 8 cents in reimbursement per lunch — or $2.76/lunch, versus today’s $2.68/lunch. Remember that in 2009 the School Nutrition Association requested an increase of 35 cents per lunch simply to 1) keep up with the rising cost of food and 2) accommodate the USDA’s dietary guidelines for Americans.

6 or 8 cents per lunch will probably void these recommendations. Here’s what it will do, however:

  • Give the USDA more oversight over “competitive foods” on school campuses (e.g., vending machines and school fundraiser baked goods);
  • Streamline the requirements to fund lunches for low-income children;
  • Provide $40 million for nationwide  “farm to school” programs; and an additional $10 million to support pilot organic school lunch programs, like the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California.

Schools will also be required to provide water with lunch, and milk choices will be pared down to skim and 1% only, per the Dietary Guideline’s 2005 recommendations.

For an entertaining look at your school’s lunch offerings, visit

For an interview with Jenny Breen, a U of M graduate student who plans to bring cooking back into the classroom, visit