The U. S. government would launch an all-out ban on selling junk food at school under a key Senate chairman’s proposal, but funding for school lunch and child nutrition programs would grow by only half as much as the White House proposed.
Senator Blanche Lincoln, chairman of the Agriculture Committee, proposed a $4.5-billion increase over 10 years for school lunches and other nutrition programs. That is less than half of the $1 billion a year suggested by President Barack Obama, who has a goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.
“This is a place to start. This is more than we’ve ever spent on these programs,” Lincoln said in unveiling her bill. She said she would keep looking for more funds to reach Obama’s request for $1 billion a year.
The government now spends $17 billon a year on child nutrition, chiefly school lunches.
Antihunger and school nutrition groups commended Lincoln and said the bill would provide meals for more poor children, but they could not estimate how many. They said more should be done to expand funding and the scope of nutrition programs.
The Environmental Working Group objected to Lincoln’s plans to offset the funding increase in child nutrition funding partly by limiting spending on a program to control farm pollution.
“It’s another example of protecting farm subsidies by pitting children against (soil) conservation,” said Craig Cox of EWG.
Nearly 32 million children are fed daily through the school lunch program and nearly 11 million pupils are in the school breakfast program. Some 63 per cent of the meals are free or available at a low price.
The plan would allow USDA to ban junk food throughout a school. High-calorie, salty, sugary and high-fat snacks and soda now can be sold in areas outside of cafeterias.