Tom Colicchio, a celebrity chef and food activist, recently tweeted on how school nutrition progress could be rolled back with a new House bill aimed to reauthorize child nutrition programs.
While this may be surprising coming from Colicchio, who is well-known for his food activism surrounding GMO foods and nutrition, the celebrity chef believes that the proposed bill may have a negative impact on children’s health.
Colicchio is not alone. Pew Charitable Trusts has also spoken out about the new bill, saying that certain provisions are not in a child’s best interests. The proposed bill would cause major changes to national school lunch and school breakfast programs, which provide free or low-cost meals for millions of children daily.
According to Pew, the new bill would actually weaken the nutrition standards of meals offered throughout the nation’s school cafeterias. Currently, school’s dessert menu options, such as cookies and ice cream, must adhere to strict calorie, sugar, and fat limits. With the new legislation, desserts offered separate from meals would no longer have to follow these same nutrition standards, allowing school cafeterias to sell more unhealthy snacks.
It is also believed that the legislation would allow schools to provide less healthy meals to their students. The bill allows the government to revise school programs on an individual basis, lowering nutritional guidelines if school administrators report that current nutrition standards are raising their costs or discouraging student involvement.
There are few parts of the bill that are considered problematic, such as allowing for exemptions from the nutrition standards, as well as reducing the number of schools that provide free lunches.
Pew is calling for legislators to rethink some of these provisions and to pass a bill that more strongly supports child nutrition. With food activists like Colicchio coming onboard, the House may be under increased pressure to make some changes to better ensure children’s health.
“Child Nutrition Bill Holds Perils and Promise for Healthy School Food,” Pew Trusts, April 19, 2016, http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/q-and-a/2016/04/child-nutrition-bill-holds-perils-and-promise-for-healthy-school-food.