The Lunch Box: real tools for schools

The US Senate finally passed the new Child Nutrition Act last week. It’s still got to go to the House of Representatives but here are some of the highlights:

*the number of low-income children eligible for subsidized or free school meals has increased.

*All food, including stuff available in vending machines and a la carte, has to meet new nutrition guidelines. That means pop and chocolate bars may be banned from schools altogether.

*The federal government has increased the amount local districts are repaid by 6 cents per meal.

Some good food advocates, like Jill Richardson writing on Mark Bittman’s blog, say that’s just not enough money to make real change to the abysmal state of American school lunches.

“Currently, schools receive about $2.68 for each free lunch served. Money is not only needed for healthy food, it is also needed for equipment, supplies, labor, and training. Reformers like Ann Cooper call for an additional $1.00. The more entrenched, corporate-friendly lobby, the School Nutrition Association, wants an additional $.35.”

Still, most people agree the reauthorization of the act is a start.

Of course, schools can’t really wait around to make change (check out Fed Up With School Lunch if you’re still a doubter about how nasty these meals can get). Enter Chef Ann Cooper’s new web portal, The Lunch Box, which takes up where the government is slow to tread. No, Cooper doesn’t offer money. Instead, The Lunch Box is an amazing new resource for schools, parents, and lunch administrators that provides real tools—scalable recipes, inspirational stories, curriculum links, information on human resources and training as well as how to interpret the government’s byzantine nutrition standards. Now that’s something schools can really sink their teeth into.

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