Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: At the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, beyond distributing food, we advocate for laws that affect the people we serve.
Congress is currently debating Child Nutrition Reauthorization, a legislation package that determines the funding and policies of national programs that provide food to children.
I recently met with food service providers from local schools. The decisions that the politicians make will directly impact their ability to feed children. Sometimes it feels like their hands are tied.
Although prior legislation increased the nutrition standards of food served at schools, the funding hasn’t increased proportionately. Food service providers in the area agreed that there is barely enough money to provide healthy good-tasting meals for the children they serve.
Bureaucratic red tape is also a source of frustration for food service providers. They are limited in their efforts to include more locally-grown fresh produce in the meals they serve.
Restrictions about which children can be served often limits participation in school food programs, despite the obvious need.
The guidelines are black and white, when life is not. Total annual income does not necessarily tell the whole story of someone’s situation, yet that is often what eligibility guidelines are based on.
What we need is creative thinking. One food service worker, who sees the need firsthand, suggested that we provide lunch to all children, like we do textbooks. They are both vital tools for learning. Her thinking was that the money we’d save on the costs associated with administering all the eligibility regulations currently in place could go toward feeding more children.
We urge constituents to contact their Congressional representatives to advocate for a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization package. We need legislation that provides more options to get food to children in need by providing flexibility and streamlining program requirements, specifically around the Summer Lunch Program. We want legislation that makes it easier for healthy food to be available for all our children.
The homily about not being able to see the forest through the trees comes to mind when I look at this whole situation. Stepping back from the “trees” of specific bills often makes me wonder if we are missing the bigger “forest” of how important nutrition is to our health as a society.
The steady increase in obesity and diabetes in America reflects the poor diet people eat. We need to build communities where children have safe places to get the exercise that they need.
We know that food is medicine; we need to make sure fresh fruit and vegetables are part of the diet of everyone in the community.
And when we consider the expense involved, it is critical that we balance what we spend against the return we realize in having a healthy society that needs less medical care.
Recognize that the issue of Child Nutrition Reauthorization is part of a larger discussion about how we improve everyone’s health.
Like a forest where trees enrich the soil for each other, provide wind breaks and create a healthy ecology, a community where everyone has access to healthy food is an environment where people can thrive.