Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Renewing the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and Strengthening the Farm to School Program

Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Renewing the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and Strengthening the Farm to School Program

Article excerpt


During the Great Depression in the 1930s, American farmers experienced vast surpluses of agricultural goods due to skyrocketing unemployment rates.1 Despite these surpluses, American consumers struggled to afford food and malnutrition became an increasingly serious issue. This concern was particularly serious for children as they required proper nutrition to develop in a healthy manner.2 The federal government attempted to remedy these two prevailing issues and passed legislation to provide funding to schools to allow them to purchase surplus agriculture from farmers desperate for markets.3 The program was so successful, President Truman signed the National School Lunch Act in 1946 to continue and strengthen the program.4

Now, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) reaches more than 30 million children every day.5 Though the aim of the program has remained the same (providing schoolchildren with affordable, nutritious lunches), the manner in which food is grown, processed, and served has changed drastically since the inception of the NSLP. Family farms, once a staple of the American agricultural economy, are nearly extinct now. Large industrial-style operations that can operate with less expense and make larger profits have largely replaced them.6 In 1946, when the NSLP was established, the average US farm was just under than 200 acres. In 2016, the average US farm was 442 acres.7 During this dramatic change in the way our food is produced, the NSLP remained fairly stagnant and allowed agribusinesses to dictate the menus schoolchildren eat.8

Over the last decade, however, significant changes to the NSLP have been proposed and implemented in a reluctant manner. The primary example of change is the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.9 This legislation, combined with advocacy efforts by former first-lady, Michelle Obama, altered the nutritional standards of school lunches and attempted to improve schools' accessibility to fresh, local, and lessprocessed foods. This article will deal primarily with the latter and will advocate for the reauthorization and widened eligibility of the Farm to School Program, which stemmed from the 2010 legislation.

The Farm to School Program achieves the original goals of the NSLP by benefitting local farmers and the community as a whole, while ensuring schoolchildren are provided with nutritious and creative meals. The program, created after the success of comparable pilot programs in California and Florida in the late 1990s, is relatively young and currently makes up a very small portion of the overall budget Congress has allocated to the US Department of Agriculture. In 2015, it was announced that the initial grants allowed schools to purchase local ingredients totaling $5 million, roughly .00003% of the USDA's total budget.10 In that short time, the program has reached 42% of school districts in the United States, indicating the rapid success of the program in its initial stage.11

This article contains four primary sections: First, An overview of the short-term and long-term health effects the NSLP has on children and the historical trends of menu formulation and nutritional standards present in the NSLP. Second, a discussion of the Healthy, Hunger, Free Kids Act of 2010 and its role in changes to the NSLP over the course of the last decade. This section will also include a description of the scope and goals of the legislation as well as its reception and success since enactment. Third, an examination of the Farm to School Program including its scope, function, and shortfalls. This section will detail how the program provides limited grants to schools nationwide to make local meat and produce more financially feasible. This program is comparable to conventional agricultural subsidies granted to farmers by the USDA. Finally, this article will conclude with suggestions for future federal actions including, but not limited to, the reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 and expanded eligibility of the Farm to School Program. …

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